FAQ: Common Law Marriage

1) What is common law marriage?

First, it is important to know that common law marriage does not exist in the majority of states, including California. If you live in California, you cannot enter into a common law marriage there. California will recognize a common law marriage that is valid in the state where it was entered into.

The legal definition of common-law marriage varies by state, but the general concept is that it happens when two people are together over a period of time and over that time they hold themselves out as being married. It is not enough to just live together for a long time, the couple must publicly act as if and tell the public that they are married. The different states that recognize common law marriage may also have additional requirements, like an intent to be married or having the marriage validated by a court order.

2) Is there such a thing as common law divorce?

Generally, no and not in California. Even if your marriage was common law, your divorce will need to be done through a traditional divorce in the court system.

3) What happens if I have a common law marriage, I move to California and then want to get divorced?

In that case, you would file for a divorce just as you would with any other marriage. California will recognize your common law marriage if it was valid where you entered into it and will treat it like any other marriage for the purpose of divorce. You’ll go through the same steps, file the same paperwork, and get a judgment. One thing that might be a bit different for your divorce though, is the date of marriage. Because common law marriages generally are established over time, there frequently is not one date that is the official marriage date. This means it may take a little extra work to determine the length of your marriage since you’ll first need to establish when it officially began.

Have questions about common law marriage or divorce? Contact Romanovska Law.

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