The concept of common law marriage is pretty simple. In some states, unmarried couples can show they operate as a married couple, either through the length of the relationship, a child together, or other factors. California is one of many states that do not recognize common law marriage. If someone wants their marriage to count in a state where common law marriage is not recognized, they need a marriage license and an exchange of vows with a witness.

How Do Unmarried Partners Handle Property and Asset Division?

In a legally married union, both parties would be able to stake a claim in shared property and assets, which is where a property and asset division lawyer would come in handy. There are also what are called “community property” laws in California. Loosely translated, this concept means married couples may have joint ownership of property obtained during the marriage. While community property rights do not apply to unmarried partners, they may be able to gain some rights under the precedent set by the Marvin v. Marvin case. The case created a groundwork for future claims to possible rights for unmarried couples. For a Marvin case to succeed, there must be either written or implied understanding that the couple shares property and earnings. Unmarried couples should seek the consult a property and asset division lawyer to help them understand their rights in a separation.

Can Unmarried Partners Get Alimony in a Separation?

In a legal marriage, one spouse may be ordered to pay alimony to the other spouse, based on a range of factors. In an unmarried union, the matter of alimony is a little trickier. Since California does not recognize common-law marriages, a possible recourse would be to attempt a “Marvin case” and try for what is referred to as palimony. There are several factors at play, but under the precedent set by the Marvin v. Marvin case, one partner may be able to obtain palimony from the other partner.

Unmarried Couples with Children

If a couple is unmarried and has minor children together, the expectations and rights are similar to a legally married couple. Both parents have rights to child custody and both parents must contribute to the financial care of their children. Parents in California have a legal obligation to their children, whether they are married to the other parent or not. Unmarried parents going through a separation face the same questions as married parents in a divorce. Will custody be equally shared, or will one parent seek primary custody? Which parent needs to contribute child support payments?

Typically, the parent the child lives with primarily will pay child support payments, but both parents are expected to finally contribute to the care of the child. To avoid any misunderstanding, it is always best for an unmarried couple with children to have a legal agreement regarding child custody, visitation, and support payments. Many unmarried couples with children are surprised to find out they still need to manage these aspects in court or with legal counsel, but the main obligation is to the children and not the other parent. Even if you are not legally married to your partner, you are legally bound to your minor children. Contact our law firm today at (310) 271-7675 for more information on how we can help.