California Common Law Marriage

Couples who live together and are not married fall under the category of cohabitation. The legal rights of cohabiting couples are very different than those of married couples. The following brief overview can help you understand the differences between the legal rights of those who are married and those who are not.

California Unmarried Couples Rights

There is no common law marriage in the State of California. This means that if two people live together, there is no statute that confers the rights of married couples upon them. There are situations also where a couple believes that they are married, but they are in fact, not.

For instance, if the parties accidentally hired an officiant who was not legally allowed to marry people, they may not have had a legally binding ceremony, but in these cases, the law will not allow the flawed technicality to stop the marriage, and the couple will be considered married under the law.

Finally, there is the concept of domestic partnership. A new law in the State of California allows any couple to apply for domestic partnership, which offers similar benefits to marriage under the law. It is important to note that domestic partnership arrangements in California are not federally recognized, and therefore, couples may still have a difficult time sponsoring a non-citizen partner for citizenship, sharing federal employee benefits, or accessing the rights and protections of married couples in other states.


According to the State of California, two people living together who are not married are two separate and distinct individuals with respect to finances. No bank accounts, investments or savings accounts will be jointly owned. If anything is held jointly, it will be divided equally in the absence of any other legally recognized agreement. No alimony will be available to either party if the couple splits, however, if there is a child, a partner will be entitled to child support.


If two people who are unmarried and have children together separate, there are different laws that apply regarding child custody. Both parents will have equal rights regarding their children, but the decisions regarding child custody and child support will still need to be determined. In cases of unmarried couples, unlike those that are married, for a child to receive child support or an inheritance, paternity must be established by agreement or by an action (such as a medical test).


If an unmarried couple owns a house, or other substantial property together, it will be divided equally upon separation. If only one person is listed as an owner, but both partners have contributed to the payments, the partner not listed on the property will need to seek legal counsel to attempt to claim part ownership in the property and a court of law will make a final decision regarding the division of that property.

Contact a Family Law Attorney in California

If you are ending a long-term relationship in which you were not married, there may be legal issues that will affect your separation. If there is any shared property, shared children, or issues that may include child support, you should visit with an experienced Orange County family law attorney to ensure your rights are protected. Contact the Law Offices of Dorie A. Rogers at 714-500-8428 or online today for a consultation and to help you today.