Law Offices of David P. Schwarz Family Law Lawyer

Call Today: 949-296-4119

Aggressive defense of your rights in all matters relating to family law as well as criminal law

Understanding Putative Spouse Rights

For numerous reasons, some marriages end up being deemed invalid. Normally, neither “spouse” would be protected by California divorce laws in these cases, but special exceptions can be made for “putative spouses,” or those who believed they were in a valid marriage.

At the Law Office of David P. Schwarz, we have handled many putative spouse cases. We will explain how the law applies to your case and will help you protect your rights throughout the duration of your legal matter.

Examining Statutes And Case Law

A party to an invalid marriage who has putative spouse status may be entitled to property, financial support and attorney fees/costs similar to someone leaving a valid marriage. Putative spouse doctrine operates to protect expectations in property acquired through parties’ joint efforts.

There is a split of authority whether there is an equivalent “putative domestic partner” doctrine under California law:

One case rejected application of the doctrine to parties to a faulty registered domestic partnership: “[N]othing in the Domestic Partnership Act, Fam.C. § 297 includes within the enumerated rights granted to domestic partners any form of putative spouse recognition.” According to this case, the rights and obligations (if any) of parties to a legally ineffective domestic partnership are not cognizable under the Family Code, notwithstanding one party’s alleged “good faith” belief that a valid registered domestic partnership had been established.

But a later case (and arguably the better view) disagrees with the Velez position: The California Domestic Partner Act extends to registered domestic partners virtually all the rights, benefits and obligations afforded married persons under California law – both for so long as their relationship is extant and upon dissolution, nullity or legal separation (see Fam.C. §§ 297.5, 299(d)); and the California Supreme Court has made clear that, from both the statutory language and the express statements of legislative intent, a chief goal of the Act is to equalize the status of registered domestic partners and married persons.

Determination Of ‘Good Faith’ Belief

In California, someone can only be considered a putative spouse if they had a good-faith belief that they were in a legally valid marriage under state law. It is not enough for someone to believe they were married according to privately held beliefs and practices that do not align with California law.

Whether a belief is considered a “good-faith” belief will be determined by the court. A 2013 ruling of the California Supreme Court held that “Good faith must be judged on a case-by-case basis in light of all the relevant facts, such as the efforts made to create a valid marriage, the alleged putative spouse’s background and experience, and the circumstances surrounding the marriage including any objective evidence of the marriage’s invalidity.” (CEJA v. RUDOLPH SLETTEN INC).

As your attorneys, it will be our job to present the strongest arguments for why your belief in the validity of the marriage met this good-faith standard.

Reach Out Today To Learn More

At the Law Office of David P. Schwarz, we have litigated numerous cases involving putative spouse doctrines. Please contact our office at 949-296-4119 for a consultation. We can also be reached through our online contact form.