Court Explains a Putative Spouse’s Right to Support Under California Law

Generally, only parties that were married can seek spousal support. There are some exceptions, though, through which a person who was not legally married can obtain spousal support. This was illustrated in a recent California ruling in which the Court affirmed that a woman deemed a putative spouse could be awarded spousal support. If you are considering ending your marriage, it is important to understand your rights and obligations, and you should contact a San Diego spousal support lawyer promptly.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that the husband and wife married in March 2011. At that time, unbeknownst to the parties, the wife’s divorce from her former husband was not final. She became aware of the fact in May 2011 and ultimately obtained a divorce in March 2012. The parties had a second wedding ceremony in April 2013 and a third ceremony in September 2013. They did not receive marriage certificates after the second and third ceremonies, however.

Allegedly, in 2020, the husband filed a petition for dissolution. The Court declined to rule on the issue of whether the second or third weddings were valid but determined that, at a minimum, the wife was a putative spouse. The Court subsequently awarded her attorney’s fees and spousal support. The husband appealed, arguing that, as a matter of flaw, the wife was not a putative spouse.

A Putative Spouse’s Right to Support

Under California law, bigamous marriages are invalid. Further, people in an invalid marriage typically do not enjoy the same rights or carry the same obligations as those imposed on spouses under the California Family Code. There is one exception, however; a party to an invalid marriage may be entitled to support, attorney’s fees, and support similar to what is granted upon the dissolution of a valid marriage if they are deemed, putative spouses.

The Court explained that a person would be deemed a putative spouse if the evidence shows that they believed in good faith that their marriage was valid. The good faith standard is subjective, and focuses on the actual mental state of the purported putative spouse.

In the subject case, the Court ultimately affirmed that the wife was a putative spouse and the award of spousal support to the wife. In doing so, it concluded that the wife qualified as a putative spouse because she sufficiently demonstrated that, at the time of the first marriage, she harbored a good faith belief that she was not married.

Confer with an Experienced San Diego Family Law Attorney

It is not uncommon for a party in a divorce action to seek spousal support, but whether the request will be granted depends on numerous factors. If you have questions about divorce or spousal support under California law, it is wise to confer with an attorney as soon as possible. At Doppelt and Forney APLC, our attorneys have ample experience handling disputes over spousal support, and if you hire us, we will advocate assertively on your behalf. You can reach us through our online form or by calling us at 800-769-4748 to set up a free and confidential meeting.

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