Family Law

Family Law News 2016, Issue 3, Volume 38, No. 3

What it Takes To Be A Putative Spouse in California and Its Benefits Part I – Void Marriages

Judge Mark Juhas

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mark A. Juhas has presided in family court since he was appointed to the bench in 2002. He also chairs the California Commission on Access to Justice and teaches extensively in the areas of family law, self-represented litigants and access to justice.

In California, as in most states, there are three types of marriages: valid, voidable, and void. The distinctions between these types of marriages can have a significant legal impact on the parties. A valid marriage can only be ended through dissolution or death and carries with it the full legal protections of the Family Code. A void marriage, on the other hand, has no legal significance from the start and can be ended through a nullity action even after the death of one of the participants, although such an action may not be required. A voidable marriage ends through an annulment, death, or dissolution, depending on the actions the parties take during the "marriage" itself.

Even if the marriage is not valid, and thus the marital partners are technically legally single, some of a marriage’s protections may still be available to a party to a void or voidable marriage depending on the factual situation. One spouse may be able to receive community property protections, spousal support, and other benefits as a putative spouse.1

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