Common Law Marriage Rights in California

Your rights and ending in common law marriage in California are very interesting. California abolished common law marriage in the 1800’s so there is no common law marriage in California, so there’s nothing to dissolve. However, if you were married in another jurisdiction and it was a valid marriage in the other jurisdiction then it is a valid legal marriage here and recognized as such. Common law marriage was abolished because California established that in order to have a valid marriage you have to have a marriage license, you have to pay the fee, and you have to have someone administer the marriage ceremony, sign it, and return it to be recorded. Once it’s recorded it’s considered a valid marriage.

What happens when two people live together for 10 years but they haven’t been married? Do they have any rights against each other? Yes, they do. In California there was a famous case Marvin versus Marvin that said that two people that cohabitated had the right, if there was an agreement a contract between the two parties to support each other that contract could be in writing, it could even be oral. But let’s say one spouse said to the other, “Come live with me, stop working I’ll take care of you. I’ll pay all your bills for the rest of your life.” And then after 10 years he found a younger woman and he didn’t want her anymore and he left. Well, the woman that he left has a claim for breach of contract. It’s a civil case, it’s not a family law case but she does have a right to enforce her contract.

Whatever the terms of that contract are enforceable and she can collect support possibly for the rest of her life from the gentleman that promised her.