Several years after your marriage you may come to find out that your spouse was already married to someone else and did not legally divorce.

In that set of circumstances, the parties may have acquired substantial assets and returning them to an unmarried condition would result in a significant financial hardship. Bothe the California legislature and the judiciary have recognized this inequity and have created the equitable remedy of putative spouse.

Following the judiciary’s lead, the California Legislature ultimately approved Family Code section 2251(a) in 2016 that provides:

(a) If a determination is made that a marriage is void or voidable and the court finds that either party or parties believed in good faith that the marriage was valid, the court shall:

  1. Declare the party or parties, who believed in good faith that the marriage was valid, to have the status of a putative spouse.
  2. If the division of property is in issue, divide that property acquired during the union as though the parties were married.

Speak to a lawyer to determine your rights if it turns out that your marriage may not have been valid due to a prior unresolved marriage.