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What is a Putative Spouse

On Behalf of | Jun 15, 2021 | Divorce

What is a putative spouse? How is an innocent spouse protected in cases of bigamy or previously unresolved marriages under California Family law? Generally speaking, a putative marriage involves some form of technically legal barrier or impediment which means the marriage is not legally binding.

The most common example involves a party who has not completed a prior divorce or is presently married to another person when the second marriage occurs. One spouse enters the marriage under the reasonable belief that a legal marriage exists. The “reasonable belief” standard has been recently addressed by California courts, and describes an “objective” standard which includes the age, life experiences and education of the parties in a putative marriage.

The spouse who acted justly under the law is known as a putative spouse and is entitled to many of the same protections available under California divorce laws such as child custody and parenting time and the division of property.

California Family Law requires our Family Court to examine the “subjective and objective belief(s)” of the putative spouse to determine if there was a valid marriage.  Did the putative spouse genuinely believe they were married and did they take consistent actions in support of this presumption?  Generally speaking, if the couple held joint bank accounts, property and from all outward appearances acted as a married couple this is not difficult to prove.

If the claim of a putative spouse is upheld, any property acquired during the marriage in question (now considered to be an invalid marriage) as “quasi-community property.”  This generally means the community property will be distributed as it would have been in any other divorce or estate action.

If you are concerned that your spouse was or may still be legally married to another before entering into your marriage and wish to preserve the existing marriage this may be possible once the impediment is removed.

These are complex legal issues, requiring the skill and experience of the Carlsbad Certified Family Law Specialists at Burke & Domercq, APC.  Protect your own interests and contact us or call 760-389-3927 to schedule an appointment for a remote or socially distanced consultation with one of our experienced Certified Family Law Specialists.