California law does not recognize common-law marriage. However, if you enter a valid common-law marriage in another state, California will give that marriage full faith and credit. When California gives that valid common-law marriage full faith and credit, the rights and obligations of the parties under California law will be the same as though they entered a marital ceremony sanctioned by the state of California. More often than not, though, it turns out that the client doesn’t have a common-law marriage that the other state would validate or recognize.
If clients are not married but were living with their partner, they can file what is commonly called the “Marvin” or “Palimony Claim,” claiming there is an implied or explicit contract between the two of them. This is a contract claim that must be litigated in the civil court.
Mark P. Gross is a divorce attorney and a founding partner in the Sherman Oaks-based firm of Brot & Gross. He appears in all of the family-law branch courts of Los Angeles County and Ventura County.