Putative Marriage Law and Legal Definition

Putative marriage is a marriage in which either the husband or wife in good faith believes the two are married, but for some technical reason they are not formally married. For example, when the ceremonial official not authorized to perform the marriage performs it. Essential basis of putative marriage is belief in existence of valid marriage. Usually putative marriages are regarded as valid to protect the innocent spouse. The concept of putative marriage has been adopted by some states in the U.S. like California, Texas, Louisiana etc. Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act also recognizes these types of marriages. The legal rule by which putative marriages exist is referred to as putative-spouse doctrine.

Example of a state statute on Putative marriage

Cal Fam Code § 2251. Status of putative spouse

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

(1) Declare the party or parties to have the status of a putative spouse.

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