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If I was married by a priest in CA but never got a license or filed paperwork with the County Clerk am I legally married?

Riverside, CA |

Many years ago, my boyfriend and I read a section of the CA law that allowed people living together to get married without a blood test and, we thought, without a license. Since we were living together and were poor students, we went this route. A priest married us without a license when we showed him a copy of the law and later sent us a letter telling us which page of the church documents our marriage was recorded on. Neither he nor we filed any paperwork with the county or the state, nor did we ever obtain a license. Now that we want to go our separate ways, we wonder if we need to get divorced or if, in the eyes of the law, we were never married in the first place.

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Attorney answers 1


You were probably never legally married. Marriage is not only a spiritual, but a legal relationship. If the ceremony took place in California, the State of California has jurisidction over the legal aspects of the marriage. California requires that every couple obtain a license and pay a fee. After the ceremony the license is to be signed by the party officiating the wedding, and the signed certificate must be returned to the State. Unless all of these things are done, you do not have a legal marriage. To double check, go to the County Recorder's office of the county you were married in. Ask for your marriage certificate.

Other matters you should be concerned with is the manner in which you filed taxes, the title to real estate and how your joint credit reports will effect each other. Taxes and credit reporting are out of my area of expertise. I know that the real estate can be easily divided, but I urge you to see an attorney about all these matters.

DISCLAIMER: I am licensed to practice law in the state of California. Therefore if your case in not in California, the information contained herein may not apply. This answer is provided as a public service and as a general response to a general question, it is not meant, and should not be relied upon as specific legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.

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