Friday, June 21, 2013


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to break the bad news that there is no common law marriage in California. For those of you who don’t know what that is, common law marriage is when simply living together for a certain amount of time and holding each other out to the public as married makes it so.
But it doesn’t in California. Here you must be married to have the rights of a spouse and they are important rights! Spousal support is the first thing, but it isn’t the last. Let’s say snookie-poo and honey-pie are living happily ever after. Who needs legal documents when you have love? They have some kids and snookie-poo decides to stay home for five or six years while the babies are young. After a couple of years they decide their little apartment is cramped and so they go house shopping. What could be more dreamy than two kids playing in the front yard of your very own home?

Since snookie-poo isn’t working (and doesn’t have the best credit for a few little things here and there) the lenders and the couple decide that to get the best rate on the mortgage they should only put honey-pie’s name on it. Because they are super organized do-it-your self type people they download a free Will from the internet and have honey-pie leave “his” house to snookie-poo if he dies. That, they figure, should cover it until they can afford to have the big, beautiful wedding they have always dreamed about.

Except they don’t ever have it. Ten years go by and things are not so perfect any more. Snookie-poo wants a divorce. She goes to see an attorney to find out what her “rights” are. Well, her lawyer cringes before telling her:

(1) Unless she can prove that honey-pie promised to always take care of her, there is no spousal support, and equally bad,

(2) unless she can prove that honey-pie promised her she could have an interest in his house during his life time she has no right to any equity in the house. He can change his will, too, so there really isn’t any point in killing him. If they had been married she would have been entitled to spousal support and one half of every dollar spent on the house since the day of their marriage and one half of the increased value of the house since the day of their marriage. Same people, same scenario, different legal relationship.

So, should you marry your boyfriend? I can’t answer that, but I will say that you should know your legal relationship to all of the assets you currently “share” like the house, car, boat, etc.

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