Can a Common Law Spouse Sue for Wrongful Death?

These days, it is not uncommon for a couple to live together without getting married. Many couples prefer to skip marriage altogether, while others decide to live together first and plan to get married in the future. Whatever the reason, it is important to understand that living with your significant other does not afford you the same legal rights as a formal marriage does. Moreover, California does not recognize common law marriages. This raises some concerns for California couples. If your common law spouse dies unexpectedly, can you file a wrongful death lawsuit?

No Common Law Marriage in California

Because California does not recognize common law marriages, a common law spouse does not qualify as a deceased person’s wrongful death claimant. It does not matter how long the couple has lived together; if they were not legally married, the surviving person cannot sue for wrongful death. An exception to this is a couple who was contracted in a common law marriage in another state that recognizes common law marriages. California will recognize such a couple as lawful spouses who can qualify as wrongful death claimants.

There is also an exception made for a “putative spouse.” This is defined as a person whose marriage to the deceased was void, but who believed in good faith that the marriage was valid under California law.

Children Qualify as Wrongful Death Claimants

While common law marriage spouses do not qualify as wrongful death claimants, any children the couple had would qualify. California law makes no distinction between children born to married parents or unmarried parents. Thus, any child dependent on the decedent can file a wrongful death lawsuit.

“It is important for couples to understand what rights they will have when deciding whether or not to get married,” said Attorney Walter Clark, founder of Walter Clark Legal Group.

Our firm has been handling personal injury cases throughout the California Low Desert and High Desert communities for over 30 years. With a 95% success rate, the California personal injury attorneys at Walter Clark Legal Group will fight to hold those responsible for your loss accountable and win compensation to cover medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If you have lost a loved one and want to discuss your legal options, contact us today for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer. We have offices in Indio, Rancho Mirage, Victorville, and Yucca Valley and represent clients through the entire California Low Desert and High Desert communities.

DISCLAIMER: The Walter Clark Legal Group blog is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal or medical advice. References to laws are based on general legal practices and vary by location. Information reported comes from secondary news sources. We do handle these types of cases, but whether or not the individuals and/or loved ones involved in these accidents choose to be represented by a law firm is a personal choice we respect. Should you find any of the information incorrect, we welcome you to contact us with corrections.

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