California Prohibited Marriage Laws: Requirements & Consent Age

By Lindsay Kramer

Updated September 10, 2019

Certificate of Marriage, Rings & Bouquet

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California marriage laws are similar to other states’ marriage laws in that they prevent illegal marriages by restricting the circumstances under which individuals can legally enter marriage contracts. Marriage is a contract; illegal marriages are marriages that cannot be enforced. This means that couples living in illegal marriages cannot access the benefits of a legal marriage in the event of a divorce, such as spousal inheritance rights and community property rights.

Prohibited Marriages in California

An illegal marriage is one where:

  • One or both of the partners was married to another person when the marriage was conducted.
  • One or both partners were underage at the time of the marriage and did not have parental consent to marry.
  • One or both partners could not consent to the marriage due to cognitive impairment or being under the influence of drugs or alcohol when the marriage was performed.
  • Either partner was forced to enter the marriage.
  • The spouses are related by blood.
  • One spouse committed fraud to enter the marriage.

When an individual marries for a reason other than the desire to make a lifelong personal commitment to another individual, the court may deem that she entered the marriage fraudulently. For example, marriages that are conducted for the sole purpose of helping foreigners enter the United States and obtain green cards are considered fraudulent marriages.

Child Marriage in California

In California, the age of consent is 18. This means it is illegal for an adult to engage in sexual intercourse with any child under age 18 unless the adult is the minor’s spouse. California marriage laws do not set a minimum age limit for marriage, but they do impose certain restrictions on minors who wish to marry.

In California, minors cannot marry without parental consent to do so. Additionally, a minor who plans to marry must have a court order permitting him to do so, which is only granted after appearing before a judge and attending at least one premarital counseling session. A minor may only get married in California following a 30-day waiting period from the date the marriage license is issued unless__:

Common Law Marriage in California

California does not recognize common law marriages. In some other states, such as Alabama, a couple may enjoy the legal benefits of marriage despite not actually being legally married if they meet certain criteria. This criteria varies from state to state among those that recognize it. Typically, it includes requirements like filing taxes jointly and using a shared surname.

California Marriage Laws

In California, there are few restrictions on couples who wish to marry. They do not have to be California residents and are not required to complete a waiting period or a blood test to get married. They must, however, obtain a marriage license from one of California’s 58 counties. A marriage license costs between $35 and $105, depending on the county that issues it and grants the couple the right to marry anywhere in the state of California.

California Laws Divorce

The laws that divorce courts in California follow are fairly similar to divorce laws in other states. Like eight other states, California is a community property state. This means that when a couple divorces, the court divides their marital assets between them equally, unless there is a significant reason for doing otherwise, such as a prenuptial agreement that outlines how the parties want their assets to be divided.

Couples who are not legally married cannot get divorced. They can, however, have their marriage annulled if the marriage is determined to be invalid. An annulment is different from a divorce in that it doesn't dismantle a legal marriage, but voids a marriage as if it had never happened. If the couple has children, both parents have equal rights to them provided they establish the children’s paternity.