Myth #1 - Common law marriage occurs when you live together for seven years
Many believe that after you live with a boyfriend or girlfriend for a certain number of years that you automatically become married. That's not so. You can live together for one year or 20 years, but unless you meet very specific criteria you won't be considered married by common law. And many states do not even recognize common law marriage.
Myth #2 - You are married if you say you are married
This is only partly true. As mentioned above, you must meet specific criteria to be considered married by common law. That criteria includes: 1) Living in a state where common law marriage is recognized; 2) Acknowledging your partner as your spouse or taking your partner's last name; 3) Filing joint tax returns; and 4) Acknowledging that you plan to marry.
Myth #3 - Most every state recognizes common law marriage
In fact, most states DO NOT recognize common law marriage. States that do recognize common law marriage include Colorado, Rhode Island, Washington, DC, and a handful of others. Note that California does not recognize common law marriage.
Myth #4 - There is absolutely no way to have a common law marriage in California
One exception to the rule comes into play when you live in a state where common law marriage is acknowledged, you live as a married couple while residing in that state, and then you move to California or another state where common law marriage is not recognized. Keep in mind that this issue quickly becomes a complicated legal matter and should be discussed with an attorney should you want a divorce.
Myth #5 - Courts do not provide support or property division for couples who never married
In California, the court recognizes palimony (Marvin claim). If a couple lives together for an extended period of time, he or she may have a right to receive support and/or a right to certain property acquired during the relationship. The specifics do get complicated and vary from state to state, so it's recommended you speak with an attorney to discuss your particular situation.