Does a long-term platonic roommate of 20 years have a claim of common law marriage?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Does a long-term platonic roommate of 20 years have a claim of common law marriage?

My elderly mother has lived with a roommate another woman for 20 plus years. They are not gay, nor have they ever been romantic, presented themselves as a couple, or shared joint property or finances. The relationship has grown contentious over the past several years and recently there has been evidence of abuse. My mother has a disability which makes this all the more concerning. Our concern is that if she leaves, the roommate could possibly have grounds to file for half her assets on the grounds they were in a common law due to the longevity of their time together. Their state of residence is CA which is even more concerning given the hyper-liberal, anything goes legislative attitude there. Does a longterm 20 plus years, platonic roommate, have any claim of common law marriage, if the other roommate leaves?

Asked on December 23, 2017 under Family Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

1) There is no common law marriage in California. (California will recognize a common law marriage formed in a state which allows them, but you cannot create a common law marriage in CA.)
2) Even in states which recognize common law marriage, both members MUST (among other requirements) "hold themselves out" to other people as married and must demonstrably both consider themselves marries; otherwise, no matter how long their live together, there is no marriage.
3) CA does sometimes recognize "palimony" and other obligations to support an unmarried partner, but this is based on contract law, not marriage law: for A to be entitled to something from B, B must have promised that B will provide/care/etc. for A in return for A doing something (e.g. living with, keeping house for, etc.) in return for B. Without such an agreement, there is no palimony.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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