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Does Common Law Marriage Exist in California?

Does Common Law Marriage Exist in California?

The concept of a “common law marriage” is one you might have heard brought up in TV shows and films, and often in reference to people living in isolated areas or in historical times, such as in the 19th century. Basically, a common law marriage is a marriage where there was no legal formalities, or, in other words, no ceremony and/or no valid marriage certificate was filed with the state. The concept of common law marriage can become important when a couple that has been together for a long period separates, and of the individuals is concerned about what legal rights he or she has to the other partner’s property and/or to receive financial support following the separation. California does not recognize common law marriage, but individuals that were in unions not involving a traditional marriage may still have rights under the law.   California Abolished Common Law Marriage in 1895 First off, a word on the definition of common law marriage is in order. Numerous states in the past recognized that two people who lived together and held themselves out as a married couple to others could consider themselves legally married even if they never participated in a wedding ceremony or filed a valid marriage certificate with the state. This meant that those couples had similar rights as couples with valid marriage licenses, at least after a period of time of being together. Only a few states still recognize the concept of common law marriage: Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and the District of Columbia. California abolished the concept of common law marriage... read more

Does Common Law Marriage Exist in California?

The concept of a “common law marriage” is one you might have heard brought up in TV shows and films, and often in reference to people living in isolated areas or in historical times, such as in the 19th century. Basically, a common law marriage is a marriage where there was no legal formalities, or, in other words, no ceremony and/or no valid marriage certificate was filed with the state. The concept of common law marriage can become important when a couple that has been together for a long period separates, and of the individuals is concerned about what legal rights he or she has to the other partner’s property and/or to receive financial support following the separation. California does not recognize common law marriage, but individuals that were in unions not involving a traditional marriage may still have rights under the law.   California Abolished Common Law Marriage in 1895 First off, a word on the definition of common law marriage is in order. Numerous states in the past recognized that two people who lived together and held themselves out as a married couple to others could consider themselves legally married even if they never participated in a wedding ceremony or filed a valid marriage certificate with the state. This meant that those couples had similar rights as couples with valid marriage licenses, at least after a period of time of being together. Only a few states still recognize the concept of common law marriage: Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and the District of Columbia. California abolished the concept of common law marriage... read more
How to Determine Date of Separation (DoS) in a California Divorce

How to Determine Date of Separation (DoS) in a California Divorce

No matter how much you may be independent of a spouse – or how much the thought of still being married to a spouse saddens, annoys, or generally feels in the past to you – you are still legally married until the date of a dissolution order signed by a California family law judge ending your marriage. But, of course, the decision to end the marriage comes often long before that date. Even if you file for divorce the day you decide to split up, it will take at least six months for the divorce to become final. But, in some cases, couples separate months and even years before that date, or even before they take any legal action whatsoever. While no lawyers or judges may be involved at the moment you separate, the date of separation – sometimes called the DoS – is actually quite legally significant for your divorce, and understanding what that date is and memorializing it can be important to protecting your financial rights in a divorce. What is the Date of Separation in California? The date of separation in California is essentially the date that at least one member of the marriage decided to end the marriage and made that intent clear to the other spouse. Specifically, California law defines the date of separation as the date there was a “complete and final break in the marital relationship,” evidenced by both of the following: One spouse expressing his or her intent to end the marriage to the other spouse; and Conduct consistent with that intent Thus, merely talking about a divorce or threatening divorce... read more
How Long Do You Have to Pay Alimony After a California Divorce?

How Long Do You Have to Pay Alimony After a California Divorce?

Alimony is a commonly-used term for payments that one spouse must make to another spouse after a divorce ends in order to help the receiving spouse adjust to life on their own following divorce. In California, alimony is technically referred to as spousal support or sometimes spousal maintenance. Before we discuss how long a person has to pay spousal support after a divorce in California, the first step is to discuss when it is available. When Spousal Support is Available in California Spousal support are payments that go above and beyond the 50/50 separation of a couple’s community property (which includes all property that either spouse earned during the marriage or acquired with earnings during the marriage, including retirement benefits later paid out). In fact, the total amount of spousal support payments one spouse pays another may well be worth more than the total amount of community property divided between the spouses, especially when there is a large differential in incomes between the spouses and they are relatively young with limited savings. California courts do not always award spousal support, but, unlike other states, California will award spousal support as a way of maintaining the living standard of the marriage (at least temporarily) and not simply when it is necessary for financial survival. Both men and women may receive spousal support, as well as those spouses in same-sex unions and marriages. The Duration of Spousal Support in California Family courts in California have wide discretion in setting not only the amount of spousal support to be paid on a periodic basis (it is usually ordered to be paid once... read more
Why You Should Keep a Detailed Custody Journal With Your Ex

Why You Should Keep a Detailed Custody Journal With Your Ex

A custody journal is exactly what it sounds like: a log of when you and your ex actually have physical custody and/or visitation of your child after a custody determination. At a very basic level, a custody journal should contain: 1) the time at which your child was handed off from either you to the other parent, or vice versa; 2) any missed custody drop-offs and visitations and the explanations given (e.g. business meeting, doctor visit for child); 3) parental responsibilities that were or were not fulfilled, such as taking the child to basketball practice or a religious service; and 4) any issues that might have arisen that could be notable. The last point could include troubling statements made by the child about the other parent to you, statements made by the other parent you wish to preserve, and any physical, emotional, or other issues the child is facing. You might choose to share this journal with your ex and both sign off on it, or not. Here are a few reasons why keeping a detailed custody journal is important. Enforcing the Custody Schedule Both parents are required to abide by the custody agreement or order signed off by the court, but, for the most part, family courts are not in the business of policing the custody schedules and expect parents to be able to adequately follow the custody schedule without intervention. But when one parent consistently is unable or unwilling to follow the terms of the agreement – either in fulfilling their obligations or in allowing the other parent access to the child – it may be necessary... read more
How to Support Friends Going Through a Divorce

How to Support Friends Going Through a Divorce

For some, divorce is a common occurrence among friends, but, for many, a friend’s divorce can come as not only a shock, but also uncharted territory. It can be confusing to know what to do or say to a friend when they tell about a pending separation or divorce, especially if you went through your formative years together, were close with both your friend and his or her spouse, and perhaps even spent a lot of time together with both spouses as well as your own significant other as couple-friends. Here are a few tips that can help as you try to support your friend going through a divorce. Understand That Your Friend May Be Contacting You Much More When most people get married, they see friends less and less as they spend more time with their spouse, building a home and having a constant companion. Furthermore, their relationships with friends outside the marriage may be on a somewhat more superficial level where their true feelings and emotions are not shared with others outside the marriage, for any number of reasons. Thus, when a marriage comes to an end, a divorcing spouse can find themselves with a lot of alone time on his or her hands, a lot of pent-up unexpressed feelings they want to share, and a desire to reconnect or connect more deeply with friends. You do not have to change your whole lifestyle to accommodate this, but know that your friend is probably lonely and in need of more friend time than usual, so try and make more time for them. Listen, But Don’t Egg Them... read more
What Factors Affect How Much Spousal Support Is Awarded in a California Divorce?

What Factors Affect How Much Spousal Support Is Awarded in a California Divorce?

The first thing many people considering and/or facing divorce for the first time think about is splitting up property between the spouse (e.g. who gets the house?), or what arrangements will be made for children, but often the most financially significant issue that spouses will deal with is spousal support (also called alimony or spousal maintenance). California law and courts have a relatively liberal policy for awarding spousal support in comparison to other states, in that California seeks to maintain the standard of living enjoyed by both spouses during the marriage (at least temporarily), and thus there is no requirement of financial necessity before support is awarded. Under California law, judges can literally consider any relevant factor in determining both the amount (how much will be paid on a monthly or bi-monthly basis) and duration (for how long the payments must be made, post-divorce, which can be indefinitely), but here are some of the most common, important factors a judge will consider. The Duration of the Marriage How long the couple was married will play a critical role in determining the duration of spousal support payments, and indeed whether spousal support should be awarded at all. In general, courts will often award spousal support for a period roughly equal to half the length of the marriage. Both Spouses’ Contributions to the Marriage Courts will assess the contributions that each spouse made to the marriage, whether in the form of financial support, provision of assets, providing care for children and taking care of the home, and so on. Thus, a spouse who may not have worked but put immense effort... read more
How to Keep Your Spouse From Stealing Assets During a California Divorce

How to Keep Your Spouse From Stealing Assets During a California Divorce

Getting divorced can easily feel like a one-way ticket into The Twilight Zone. You thought you knew someone only to see a whole other side of them, and other, even darker sides may be coming out. With the relationship coming to an end, your spouse may be acting in ways that you never suspected or picked up on. And it’s easy to get paranoid about whether you can trust them right at the time you are entering into what is likely a financially precarious or at least uncertain time. Is your spouse stealing from you? It can be hard to tell, but here a few things to keep in mind during the California divorce process. You Have a Right in ALL Community Property First off, it is critical to understand the difference between separate property and community property in California. Separate property is the property you came into the marriage with, or received individually as a gift or inheritance. Each spouse does have a right to their own separate property and may take it with them at the outset. Community property, on the other hand, is all property that either spouse earned or acquired during the marriage. Thus, even if your spouse was the only earner in the family, and everything you and your spouse earned was purchased with those earnings, it is all considered community property. What that means is that neither property can claim sole ownership of it prior to a judge ordering a distribution of property in your final divorce order. Obviously, both spouses will need to have use of community property such as furniture and... read more
My Spouse is Cyber Bullying Me – Can I Get a Restraining Order in California?

My Spouse is Cyber Bullying Me – Can I Get a Restraining Order in California?

The state of California has long had laws in place to protect individuals from a dangerous spouse or ex-spouse, whether they are married, separated, or divorced. With the age of the Internet, there are unfortunately new ways for people to intimidate, harass, and threaten one another, literally from anyplace and at any time. But you do not have to suffer in silence when a spouse is cyber bullying you, whether through email, text, social media, on online chat boards, or through any other electronic medium. You may be able to obtain a restraining order against your spouse based on any type of electronic bullying, and an experienced California family law attorney can work with you to begin this process immediately. What a Restraining Order Can Do For You in California With a restraining order, you can prevent a spouse from coming within a certain physical range of you, but you can also obtain a restraining order that: Prevents your spouse from communicating by phone or electronically Prevents your spouse from contacting your children Prevents your spouse from coming to your residence Prevents your spouse from taking any action with regard to your personal or shared property Once the restraining order is in place, you can contact the police whenever your spouse violates the terms of the order and they can place your spouse under arrest for violating the order. Thus, while emailing you or posting on your social media account would not normally be against the law, if you have a restraining order in place which prohibit such actions, those actions by your spouse will become illegal and you... read more
Getting a California Divorce When Your Spouse Lives Out-of-State

Getting a California Divorce When Your Spouse Lives Out-of-State

It is not uncommon for a spouse who is presently living in California to want to seek a divorce from a spouse living in another state. The fact that you and your spouse live in separate states may well be part of the cause for your divorce (e.g. your spouse abandoned the marriage to go to a different state, or you wished to move to California without the spouse) or part of the effect of the separation (e.g. your spouse moved away after the marriage fell apart, or perhaps you came to California). Either way, now you are in separate states, and you are seeking to obtain the divorce. It is possible for you to obtain a divorce from your spouse in California, even if the other spouse does not live here and may have never lived here, but there are several important matters on this issue to keep in mind and discuss with your attorney. You Must Be in California For at Least Six Months California will provide a divorce from your spouse effective in all 50 states – regardless of the state you were married in or where you lived during the marriage – but California courts do require that you have lived in the state for at least six months prior to filing for the divorce. That said, there are a number of issues you will want to discuss with your family law attorney prior to filing your petition for divorce, and steps you can take to protect your financial and family interests prior to filing, so you should not hesitate to speak to a California... read more