Long Beach Common Law Marriage Lawyers

Posted By admin, On September 19, 2020

Common Law Marriage: Defined

“Common law” is when a couple has resided together and held themselves to the public as married for a long-enough period of time that the court recognizes the marriage, regardless of a ceremony.

Is Common Law Marriage Recognized in California?

The Family Code of the State of California does not recognize “common law marriage.” In the Golden State, you must obtain a marriage license and then exchange vows in a ceremony – either civil or religious – to be lawfully married.  Although California does not recognize common law marriages, unmarried couples who have been together for a lengthy period of time do still have some rights.

Your Long Beach common law marriage lawyer can help you protect those rights and provide you with accurate advice for your unique situation. 

Common Law Couples from Other States

In some cases, if you lived as a couple in another state that recognizes common law marriage, then the state of California might also recognize your marriage.

To have your common law marriage recognized by a court in California, you and your common law spouse must meet criteria for common law marriage set out by the laws of the state you came from. The legislation varies from state to state, so it is important to work with an comon law marriage lawyer who can help you determine whether or not you meet the criteria. Generally speaking, most states require that you hold yourselves out as married.  Some ways to do that include filing joint tax returns and using the same last name.

The following states currently have common law marriage laws:






Rhode Island


South Carolina


What Rights do Unmarried Couples Have in California?

Even if you are not lawfully married and you don’t meet another state’s criteria for common law marriage, you might still have some of the rights of divorcing couples. For instance, if you had valid reason to believe you were in a legal marriage, you may have the right to spousal support and community property. This can be difficult to prove.  It frequently has something to do with some kind of  technical error in the marriage process.

You might have rights after you separate if a written or verbal contract was in place that promises financial support, such as a cohabitation agreement. This is customarily referred to as “palimony,”.  It is similar to spousal support (or alimony) for couples who have been together for an extended period of time.

What is a Marvin Claim?

Under the well-known Marvin v. Marvin case, unmarried couples who reside together and meet certain requirements (detailed below) could make marital-type claims for property and financial support after they split up, often referred to as “Marvin” claims.

In the Marvin case, actress Michelle Triola Marvin sued actor Lee Marvin for financial compensation akin to what is available under California community property laws. Although they had never married, she demanded financial support and one-half of the $3.6 million Lee earned during their six years together. The California Supreme Court held that Michelle could indeed file suit against Lee on the basis of their long time, live-in relationship. In the end, Michelle lost her financial claim because she was not able to prove that an implied contract existed that entitled her to share property or for Lee to pay support, but her case opened the floodgates for future “Marvin” lawsuits.

How Can I Win a Marvin Lawsuit?

To succeed in a Marvin suit, you need to prove that you and your partner had a written agreement or at least an implied understanding to share your property and earnings and/or that one of you would provide financial support to the other.  

The two most common ways to prove this:

File An Action for Breach of Contract.

In the event that a couple has a valid, written agreement to share property or provide support, that contract would control the outcome of their case. The next step is for the couple to figure out specific items and amounts for property division and financial support. If they are not able to agree on the numbers, they can hire common law marriage lawyers or other experts to do this. If there are issues with the contract, or if either one of the partners contests it, then a judge can rule on these issues in court.

File An Action for an Implied Contract.

An implied agreement is much more difficult to prove than a written contract. An implied contract for property or support has to be discovered by examining conduct of the parties. Did they live and function in a way that proves they agreed to share their earnings and property? Was one partner supporting the other throughout the relationship and were they promised that the financial support was going to continue if they ever broke up, or after the partner providing support passed away? 

In making such findings, courts will consider evidence, including the following:

  • We what reasons the parties had for not marrying 
  • How they did their banking.  Did they have joint savings and checking accounts?
  • Credit practices – did the couple use joint credit cards? Who paid the bills? Did they apply jointly for loans and accrue debt together or individually?
  • Did they pool their finances together to buy property and other assets?
  • Did they take title together?

A judge will also look to see whether the couple had a stable, marriage-like relationship, in which they were residing together (at least part-time), and functioning as mutual companions.

One sure fire way to avoid a Marvin lawsuit is to enter into a “Living Together Agreement”.  Similar to a prenup, this agreement dictates what will happen to the property you acquire during your relationship and whether either partner can request financial support in the event of a break up.

Your well informed Long Beach common law marriage lawyer can help you draft agreements, negotiate settlements, and bring or defend yourself in a Marvin suit in your common law marriage.