Is There Common Law Marriage in California?

Hossein Berenji, Aug 11, 2022

There is no common law marriage in CA. If you’re an unmarried couple living in Beverly Hills, there’s no California law that gives you marital rights.

To take the next steps and figure out ways to protect yourself and your loved ones, speak with a family law attorney in Beverly Hills today.

Rights for Unmarried Couples in California

In some states, if you live together for a certain amount of time, if you combine finances, if you describe yourselves as spouses to others, and meet other criteria, you’ll be granted marital protections under state law. This is known as “common law marriage.” California does not have this setup.

Some couples don’t see the value in marriage and don’t want to go through a formal ceremony. California law does allow domestic partnerships, which provide similar benefits to marriage. Entering a domestic partnership still requires the completion of legal paperwork.

Let’s look at a few specific matters often at issue in a marriage and divorce.


When two people live together in California, absent some agreement, their finances remain separate. Essentially, even if you’re in a relationship, you’re nothing more than roommates from the state’s perspective.

This means that if one of you dies, the other has no right to claim ownership of any individual bank or retirement accounts. No right to investment accounts or credit cards.

The only way an unmarried person would have any right to money owned by their partner is if an account was held jointly. So if you mix finances and use a single bank account, you have most likely put both of your names as owners on the account. When one of you dies, the other typically takes sole ownership of that account.

If you don’t take that tedious step for every single account, you may not have any rights. If you’re looking to end a long-term relationship that was never formalized in marriage, then you’ll want to ensure that you don’t share ownership on any accounts; that could create legal hurdles during your separation.


You may own a house, which may have been used for many years as your home with your partner. But suppose your spouse previously owned the home before you met, and you’ve never added your name on the deed? Upon separation, you don’t have any initial rights to the property.

However, if you can show that you contributed to the home, whether through mortgage payments, upgrades, or any other act, you may be able to seek joint ownership. That is a complex process and will require legal assistance.


When you have children and are not married, you’ll typically have rights regarding your children,  so long as the other parent doesn’t contest your parental status. In California, both parents have equal rights to see their children and develop relationships with them.

However, child custody and child support will be more complex. A court must decide these issues if you and your partner cannot. You’ll also want to ensure that your children can legally establish both of you as their parents. If they can’t, they may not be able to inherit from you.

Contact a Beverly Hills Family Law Lawyer Today

Getting married isn’t for everyone. But if you want certain legal protections, you’ll need to make your relationship formal in the eyes of the state. Without that, you may be giving up rights you’d otherwise have.

Help protect those rights by meeting with an experienced Beverly Hills family law attorney. Contact Berenji & Associates today to get experience you can trust.

Contact the family and divorce law firm of Berenji & Associates for help today.

If you’re going through a divorce, you need a strong team on your side fighting for your rights. Call Berenji & Associates today to know how we can assist you.

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