The Truth - the Winning Argument for Your Case

14 Nov. 2013

Did You Know That Common Law Marriage Doesn't Exist in California?

Posted By The Buncher Law Corporation

one sad couple back to back man thinking and woman crying

In California, longtime cohabitating couples often believe that after living together for a set number of years, they have established a common law marriage.

That may have been true in the 19th Century. But not today.

In California, unmarried partners who break up have rights under what is known as a Marvin Action. A Marvin Action is an action filed in civil court made by one party against another he or she cohabitated with but never married for support and or property rights similar to those that might be made as between parties in a divorce.

Such cohabitation based claims are often called Marvin Action because the leading case defining the rights and duties of non-marital cohabitating partners is Marvin v. Marvin (1976) 18 Cal. 3d 660, 681. (The landmark "palimony" case pitted actor Lee Marvin and his longtime girlfriend.)

California abolished common law marriage in 1895. A common law marriage occurs when a man and woman cohabitate for seven or so years, and meet other requirements mandated by the particular state as being necessary to be treated as though they were married, even though they never obtained a marriage license.

A Marvin agreements are ones based on an express contact (explicitly agreed upon verbally or in writing), or based on an implied contract (an agreement implied by the parties conduct), or on quasi contractual grounds.

For instance, the court may enforce an implied or express agreement between parties to pool their respective resources and to share in all fruits for their labor for their mutual benefit. This is often referred to as a "pooling agreement." The end result is that domestic partners may have spousal support and equal division of community property rights similar to a legally married couples seeking a divorce.

Other grounds for recovery include an implied or express agreement to hold property jointly or to form a partnership or joint venture. Further civil grounds for recovery may include an action for the reasonable value of services rendered, or an action seeking to impose a constructive trust, resulting trust or an equitable lien to provide relief from the abuse of a confidential or fiduciary relationship.

Blog Home

Helpful Family Law Resources

Family law can be complex, but there are plenty of resources available to assist you. Browse through the various resources our team provides to help simplify your legal process in every way possible.

We Have the Answers You Need