Law Marriage In California

Common law marriage is a legal term that recognizes a marital relationship between two people who have not gotten a marriage license or performed a formal ceremony but have completed certain conditions that indicate they consider themselves married. But what is a California common law marriage?

California doesn’t recognize the marriage rights of other couples who entered into a common-law marriage that occurred while living in another state. A formal marriage cannot be created in the Golden State just by cohabitation or acting as a couple, no matter how long a couple has been together.

We will discuss the history of common-law marriage in California and the requirements for establishing this type of union. You will discover the rights and responsibilities that come with being in a common-law marriage, as well as the process for dissolving it.

The History of Common Law Marriage in California

Did you know that the history of common-law marriage in California is a fascinating journey that sheds light on the evolution of relationships and legal recognition?

Common-law marriage, also known as informal marriage, was recognized in California until the late 19th century. During the Gold Rush era, many couples in California engaged in common-law marriages due to the lack of formal marriage ceremonies and the transient nature of the population.

In 1872, the California Supreme Court ruled that common-law marriages would no longer be recognized in the state. The desire to safeguard people’s rights in legal relationships and the increasing emphasis on formalities both had an impact on this decision.

Since then, California has required couples to obtain a marriage license and go through a formal ceremony in order to be legally recognized as married.

Requirements for Establishing a Common Law Marriage

Common law marriages are no longer recognized in California despite so, here are the criterias on how a common law relationship starts:

  1. Both you and your partner must have the legal capacity to enter into a marriage. This means you must be of a certain age and mentally competent. 
  2. Both agree to be in a marital relationship and present yourselves to others as a married couple. This can be demonstrated through joint bank accounts, shared property, or referring to each other as spouses.
  3. You must live together continuously and cohabitate as a married couple. Simply living together is not enough; you must have the intent to establish a common law marriage. 

Rights and Responsibilities of Common Law Couples in California

Living together without legal recognition can leave couples in California vulnerable and uncertain about their rights and responsibilities. As a common-law couple in California, you should be aware that although the state does not recognize common-law marriages, you still have certain rights and responsibilities.

For instance, you have the right to make medical decisions for your partner in case of an emergency, as long as you have a valid power of attorney. You still have the responsibility to financially support each other and share in the expenses of living together.

Without legal recognition, you won’t have the same property rights as married couples, and you won’t be able to benefit from certain legal protections and benefits. As a common law couple in California, consult with a legal professional to understand and protect your rights.

Dissolving a Common Law Marriage in California

If you’re in a common law marriage and want to dissolve it, there are certain steps you need to follow.

  • Gather all relevant documents that prove the existence of your common law marriage, such as joint bank accounts, property ownership, or shared bills.
  • File a petition for dissolution of your common law marriage with the court. It is wise to hire a knowledgeable attorney who specializes in family law to guide you through the process and protect your rights.

Despite not being recognized in the state, dissolving a common law marriage requires legal procedures. Going through the legal procedures can give you a fair resolution and protect your interests.

Common Law Marriage vs. Traditional Marriage in California

There are distinctions between a traditional marriage and a common law union in sunny California, which can bring about unforeseen legal complexities.

Traditional marriage requires a marriage license and a formal ceremony, while common-law marriage in California is not recognized. This means that simply living together for a certain period of time does not automatically create a legal marriage.

The state does recognize common-law marriages that were established in other states. So, if you were in a common-law marriage in a different state and then moved to California, your marriage may still be recognized. If you’re caught in a complex situation stemming from your common law union, it is recommended that you consult with a knowledgeable attorney to understand the specific laws and requirements that apply to your situation.


Now you know how it works to be in a common-law marriage in California; common-law marriage is not recognized in California. If you want the legal protections and benefits of marriage, it’s important to go through the proper channels and have a valid marriage license. You can also consult legal professionals who have the knowledge regarding common law to guide you through this complex situation.