What Is a Putative Spouse?
The word “putative” is defined as “reputed” or “supposed” and applies to marriages in which at least one of the parties believes that they are legally married. Accordingly, a putative spouse is one who holds a good faith belief that they have been living as a married person with their partner. Good faith is determined by what a reasonably prudent person would believe under the same or similar circumstances. For instance, a court may look at certain circumstances of the marriage such as whether the couple told people they were married or whether they stated they were married on their joint tax returns.
A marriage may be void or voidable for a number of reasons. In some cases, a person may be unaware of their spouse’s first marriage. Legally, a married person cannot marry another until the first marriage is dissolved by the court. However, a person who does not know about their partner’s first marriage may hold a good faith belief that they are legally married to their current partner. Other couples may think that they got married but discover later that their annulment or divorce form was not completed. In these cases of an honest mistake, the marriage would be considered void, and both parties may be granted putative spouse status. Another example could be a marriage that takes place in another country but isn’t legal under California law. In any case, couples must take steps to meet the legal requirements of their state if they want their marriage to be legal.
What Are My Rights as a Putative Spouse?
California Family Code Section 2251 lays down the law regarding putative spouses. It states that if a determination is made that a marriage is void or voidable, and the court finds that either or both parties believed in good faith that the marriage was valid, the court will declare the party or parties to have the status of a putative spouse. This status then grants you rights that you otherwise would not have.
Most importantly, this affects the division of property. If your marriage is not legal, you cannot sue your partner for property division claims. However, once you are established as a putative spouse, the court will divide the property acquired during your marriage that would have been community or quasi-community property if the marriage had not been void or voidable. This is only done at the request of the party who is declared a putative spouse. Additionally, a putative spouse is entitled to succeed to an intestate share of the decedent spouse’s estate. This means that if your partner dies, you cannot inherit from your partner’s estate unless you have putative spouse status and your partner named you as an heir in their will.
Furthermore, if your marriage is not legal, you cannot sue your partner for spousal support. Putative spouse status allows you to sue for spousal support and allows the court to order your partner to pay alimony in an amount and for a duration that the court deems reasonable. If your partner refuses a settlement after you have been established as a putative spouse, you can additionally petition the court for an award of attorneys’ fees. In sum, putative spouse status is important in order to maintain your property and spousal support rights.
Contact Wallin & Klarich Today
The laws regarding putative spouses can be confusing and complex. If you have a question about putative spouse status or if you are being sued by a putative spouse, contact Wallin & Klarich as soon as possible to see how we can help. With 40+ years of experience, Wallin & Klarich is the greatest choice amongst Southern California criminal defense firms. Our attorneys have helped thousands of clients in a wide range of family law cases, and we have the skills and resources to secure the best outcome for you.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, Torrance, West Covina, Los Angeles, and San Diego, you are sure to find an available and convenient attorney near you.
Discover how our team can assist you. Contact us today, toll-free at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free consultation with a skilled defense attorney.
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