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Unmarried Couples

Unmarried Couples and Common Law Marriage in California

“Common law marriage” is a type of union in which the spouses have agreed to marry, live as a married couple, and are known as a married couple in the community, but have not observed the formalities of a ceremony or marriage license. While a minority of States allow common law marriage, California is not among them.

Unmarried couples who have been together for an extended period of time, however, do have some rights. The family law attorneys at Kaspar & Lugay, LLP, can help you protect those rights and provide provide clarity about your status under the law as an unmarried couple. Call 415-843-6195 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.

Common Law Marriages from Other States

It may be possible to be married under California law if you lived as a couple in another state that recognizes common law marriage. In order for California to recognize your common law marriage, you must have lived in a state where such a union is legally recognized, and have met the criteria for married status.

States that currently recognize common law marriage include:

  • Alabama
  • Colorado
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Montana
  • Rhode Island
  • Texas
  • South Carolina
  • Utah

These laws vary from state to state, so it is critical you have a knowledgeable attorney who can help confirm your status in your previous state of residence. In general, most states require that you hold yourselves out as married, which can be evidenced by things like filing joint tax returns and using the same last name.

What Are the Rights of Unmarried Couples in California?

Even if you were not legally married or do not meet another state’s criteria for common law marriage, you may have limited rights similar to divorcing couples. For example, if you reasonably believed that you had a valid marriage, you may have the right to financial support and the division of assets. Whether you had a reasonable belief can be difficult to prove and often involves situations where there was a technical error in the marriage process.</

You may also have rights after you separate if there was a written or verbal contract promising financial support, such as a cohabitation agreement. This is often referred to as “palimony,” and it similar to alimony for couples who have been together for an extended period of time.

Clarify Your Marital Status and Protect Your Rights with Kaspar & Lugay, LLP

Because every situation is unique, our lawyers will invest time in understanding your history, your current status, and your ideal outcomes. We then develop a customized strategy in order to effectively argue your case and get you the outcome you deserve. Call 415-843-6195 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation.

Your Consultation

Whether you’re reaching your breaking point or needing to modify a pre-existing judgment or agreement, your team at Kaspar & Lugay is ready to help you explore your options and develop a winning strategy.

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770 Tamalpais Drive
Suite 200
Corte Madera, CA 94925


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Suite 207
Napa, CA 94559

Walnut Creek


1990 N California Blvd
8th Floor
Walnut Creek, CA 94596


Santa Barbara


827 State Street
Suite 1
Santa Barbara, CA 93101



Improve Your Odds of A Successful Resolution

Kaspar has been helping with a difficult situation and has been both professional and compassionate. He has given time and advice that has been helpful and clear. He has explained complex situations in simple, clear terms. I will recommended him to anytime some one asks for a good lawyer. And if I need a good one in the future I will not hesitate to call him.

Walnut Creek, CA

Michael B.