Court: no license, no marriage under California law

On behalf of Law Office of Ann A. Thomson, A Professional Law Corporation posted on Tuesday, September 4, 2012.

Once a couple’s divorce is finalized in Orange County, California, the relationship does not always end there. In some cases, issues remain between the couple such as an ongoing child custody or support agreement. Another major continuing obligation is alimony. While each case may be different, in general a spousal support obligation ends when the ex-spouse receiving the monthly check remarries.

A stock broker in California had knowledge of this general presumption, which is why he was surprised when the Second District Court of Appeal ruled on Aug. 23 that his $20,000 obligation to his ex-wife would continue despite her “remarriage” to her new boyfriend. The reason, the new couple chose to forgo signing a marriage license.

“I got screwed,” said the ex-husband as he related the time leading up to the ceremony. “No one knew she wasn’t married. I feel wronged.” The thing was that the new couple told everyone they were getting married, including the children’s school. There was an engagement ring and a registry at Bloomingdale’s. Guests were invited to watch the couple walk down the aisle and say their “I do’s” in front of a rabbi.

What was later revealed was that the couple had discussed spousal support just prior to the wedding. When the pair realized that both of their alimony checks would stop coming, they feared losing the income. Together, they decided to have a “commitment ceremony” instead. The court ruled that without a valid marriage license, there was no valid marriage to terminate the support obligation.

Source: The National Law Journal, “Appeals court rules that gown, invitations do not a wedding make,” Leigh Jones, Aug. 27, 2012
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