Pros and Cons of Cohabitation Versus Marriage in California

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

California divorces; California Divorce MediatorsThe subject of whether marriage better or cohabitation warrants a lot of debate based on people’s personal experiences and beliefs. There are some who believe nothing can replace a marriage in a loving relationship, while others beg to differ and believe that cohabitation is equally amazing without the legality of marriage. We discuss some of the benefits and disadvantages of cohabitation over marriage.

Pros of cohabitation over marriage 

  • One of the most obvious benefits is that you get to share your home and life with someone you love and like to be around because you love the person and not because of legality binding you.
  • Cohabiting has all the financial benefits of being in a marriage without the legal hassles that come with marriage. You get to split costs, manage finances, and invest together with your partner.
  • Cohabiting can be a great way to understand if you and your partner can sustain a marriage. It is a good way to know how well you both work together as a couple living together before taking the plunge and getting married.

Cons of cohabitation over marriage 

  • There is some research that shows that marriage may have physical and psychological benefits that are lacking in cohabitation. However, some results are still ambiguous about the reasons behind these differences.
  • There is no legal responsibility or hassle, making it easier to leave a cohabitation arrangement. Marriage demands more legal commitment and, therefore, there is more thought given before a spouse decides to leave.
  • If you have kids while cohabiting, custody rights can become complicated if you decide to go your separate ways, as there is no clear legality.

Cohabitation in California 

California does not recognize common law marriage except when a couple is considered married under common law marriage in a state that recognizes it and then moves to California. California recognizes cohabitation as a legal form of relationship, and there are some provisions for couples who wish to cohabit but not marry.

If you are cohabiting to test your relationship before getting married, you can enter a prenuptial or premarital agreement that lists rules and laws applicable to you as a couple once you get married.

If you simply wish to cohabit without the legal hassles of marriage, then the state has a provision of getting a cohabitation agreement, also known as a nonmarital agreement. This formal agreement lists out responsibilities and rights for the cohabiting couple and works as a contract that is outside of marriage laws.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, What is Divorce Mediation

Throwing Light on Common Law Marriage

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Orange County divorce mediation attorneys; California Divorce MediatorsWhen a couple that intends to get married is allowed to forgo a traditional wedding and marriage license and still acknowledge their status as a married couple, this practice is known as the common law marriage.  The purpose of this article is simply to explain what common law marriages are because some people have heard of it but don’t entirely understand the concept.

No formal registration is required in this form of marriage, and only a few jurisdictions allow it. California is one of those jurisdictions that does NOT recognize common law marriages.  Couples in a common law marriage have the same rights as those who got married in a ceremony with legal licenses. They follow the same rules and have equal obligations as any other married couple.

When does a marriage become common law?

In order for a marriage to be regarded as common law, the partners involved must behave as a married couple. Simply cohabiting for a long duration will not constitute a common law marriage. If they live together for a long duration, share their last names, have children, refer to each other as their spouse, file joint tax returns, hold joint bank accounts or credit cards etc. then in the jurisdictions that allow it, their marriage will be considered as common law, and thus legal. Both partners must be of legal age and also of sound mind. They must also not be married to someone else, because in that case this marriage would be considered null and void.

Are common law marriages recognized outside of the jurisdictions that allow them?

Even though most states may not allow a couple to enter into a common law marriage and only recognize traditionally married couples, if a couple in a common law marriage moves to these states from a different one where it is allowed, then the marriage will be recognized. This is because when the couple entered the common law, they were still in a jurisdiction that considers it valid.

How can partners involved in a common law marriage be separated?   

Even if the marriage was common law, once a couple has entered into it, they need to follow the same procedures to obtain a divorce as do other traditionally married couples. So a common law marriage is easy to get into but getting out of one is not as simple.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, “What is Divorce Mediation.”