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Putative Marriage

A Full Explanation of Putative Marriage

A Full Explanation of Putative Marriage

The word putative is defined as being an alleged, implied or presumed idea that is accepted as being true. A putative marriage is one that does not have any real legal standing but was entered into in good faith by at least one participant. A putative marriage may have originally looked like a civil marriage, for example, but would actually be invalid. Additionally, a putative marriage is not a common law marriage.

Common law marriage is a legal marriage that is usually based on the time in a relationship and actions of a couple. There is no actual legality in a putative marriage, although the individuals in such a marriage may believe that they are legally married.

Due to the complicated nature of a putative marriage, legal measures have been set forth to protect the individuals involved in such a marriage. Sometimes only one spouse can obtain putative status, as only one spouse would have been falsely led to believe that his or her marriage was legal. A common reason for a marriage to be putative is that one spouse is still legally married to someone else.

If one marriage contract is still open, then the newest one is null and void. However, because of the good faith that the putative spouse exhibited when entering the marriage, he or she is legally protected in case of such an event. He or she is able to seek financial support such as alimony payments  and division of joint property. A spouse without putative status is unable to legally seek financial assistance from his or her former partner.

A putative spouse is one who enters the marriage in good faith. If one partner enters the marriage while knowingly deceiving the other partner about a fact that would make the marriage null and void, that partner is not considered to be a putative spouse. Only the spouse who was misled is protected. The putative spouse can sue for damages but the other spouse cannot. If both spouses are putative, meaning that both entered the marriage in good faith and a technicality prevented them from having a legal marriage, then the marriage can be made valid with the removal of that technicality.

This is especially true in regards to Canon Law, which are laws that govern the Catholic Church. Every marriage that is granted by the Catholic Church is legitimate until proven otherwise. If a marriage is proven to be illegitimate then an annulment can be granted or the marriage can be authenticated when the problem is removed.

Most laws that involve putative marriage are civil laws. Again, civil laws that govern putative marriage will often grant the marriage immediate validity if the legal problem within the marriage is removed. There is usually no need to have a wedding ceremony again. Most states in America have laws that govern putative marriages.

Putative Marriage Differences Between State Laws

Putative Marriage Differences Between State Laws

Almost every state in America has some type of state law that deals with However, while most states have state laws that define the concept of a putative spouse, only two states recognize both common law marriages and putative marriages. These states are Colorado and Montana. Their definitions of putative marriage are still significantly similar to the definitions provided by the state laws of other states. 

A typical way of defining a putative spouse would be as any individual who lived with another person under the pretense of marriage, while believing that he or she was married. According to most state laws, the putative spouse is expected to file for a divorce when the fraud is discovered. When a putative spouse finds out that the marriage is a fraud, he or she becomes aware of the fact that he or she is not really married and is not allowed to sue for any asset that is acquired after this time.

State laws concerning putative marriage exist to protect the putative spouse. Since the putative spouse is the one who believed that the marriage was legally binding, it is generally thought that they should be protected as much as any legitimate spouse would be under regular marital laws. A state law regarding division of property will affect a putative spouse in the same way that it would a regular spouse when seeking financial gain at the end of a marriage. A spouse going through a divorce has the same rights regarding joint property as a putative spouse.

The main difference in laws regarding putative spouses and laws regarding divorced spouses is the length of time for which the suing spouse can claim division of property. A spouse seeking a divorce can try to obtain property that was acquired before and during the marriage. A putative marriage is over as soon as the putative spouse finds out about the fraudulent activities that void the marriage. Putative spouses usually are not granted any asset that was acquired before the putative marriage began.

Is Putative Marriage Found In Case Law?

Is Putative Marriage Found In Case Law?

 According to statistics, over a third of all people in the United States are likely to divorce their first spouse. Before marriage, if a couple decides to prepare itself for possible marriage trouble, the couple may choose to sign a prenuptial agreement. A prenuptial agreement protects each spouse’s assets from being unfairly divided in case of divorce. 

Some prenuptial agreements will stop an individual from getting anything in the case of divorce, depending on the circumstances. But case law surrounding putative marriages defines the interaction between a prenuptial agreement and a putative marriage in a very different light than this standard use of prenuptial agreements.

Most cases of putative marriage have similar results, with the putative spouse receiving restitution from the non-putative spouse. Most of the law that relates to putative marriage comes from the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act. The Canon laws

When one discovers that he or she is a putative spouse, he or she will most likely go to court in order to annul the marriage. If he or she is seeking financial help, then he or she may have to go through official divorce proceedings.

Find the Right Putative Marriage Lawyer

Find the Right Putative Marriage Lawyer


The best lawyer to hire regarding any family court matter is a child or marriage lawyer. A marriage lawyer will be more aware of any legal family rights that one may have than any other type of lawyer. Any marriage questions that one has are best answered by a marriage lawyer. A marriage lawyer is aware of what the consequences of being in a putative marriage will be.

To find a marriage lawyer who is experienced in putative marriages, one could try checking their local phone book or doing a Internet search. Divorce is very common and there are many lawyers that are experienced enough to handle a divorce case. Putative marriage tends to be a more complicated matter. 

If one seeks a marriage lawyer to help them in dissolving their putative marriage, it is likely that the lawyer will petition the courts to seek an annulment rather than a standard divorce. In rare cases, divorce proceedings may be needed to separate legally, but usually an annulment will be granted without divorce proceedings. It is the job of the marriage lawyer to look out for the client's best interests. 

If the putative marriage has been a long one, then it is common for the putative spouse to seek alimony and a division of assets. An individual can still be entitled to these things if they are awarded an annulment. 

If one wishes to dissolve their putative marriage, they should request a consultation with an experienced family lawyer so that they can ask any divorce or marriage questions they have. State law varies in terms of rules and regulations when it comes to handling putative marriages. Most states do have laws set up to protect the putative spouse, since they are considered to be the innocent party. An experienced marriage lawyer should be able to answer any questions that the putative spouse has about the process of ending the union.

If an individual has any doubts about what to do following the realization that they are in a putative marriage, then they should consult with a marriage lawyer immediately. Some putative spouses may be entitled to the same financial support that any other individual getting a divorce may be entitled to.

Putative Marriage Versus Common Law Marriage

Putative Marriage Versus Common Law MarriageWhen someone is a putative spouse, they are unaware that their marriage is not legal. They may act as they are married for years, unaware of the fact that due to a legal impediment, they 

have never been married. A common law spouse is aware that he or she is not technically married.

Common law marriages and putative marriages are not considered to be real marriages. However, they are both usually legally binding in many state courts, depending on the jurisdiction. Both common law and putative spouses generally have legal rights that are similar to a regular spouse.

Common law marriages are not licensed marriages. Although putative ones are not licensed either, they are assumed to be. For a couple to pursue a common law marriage, they must vow to live as husband and wife would. This means that they both have to be legally able to marry each other. Neither can be married to anyone else, and both spouses must be of legal age. 
Common law marriage is only possible when both the husband and wife are legally able to be married. 

A putative marriage follows the same standards, since it is like a regular marriage. However, it may be one of these factors that makes it a putative marriage. If a couple is married and one spouse finds out that their previous divorce is not completed, they have been in a putative marriage. 

Putative spouses are allowed to sue their spouses for financial support and assets. Since the putative spouse is unaware that they are in a false marriage, legal rights have been set up to help protect them. If one partner in a putative marriage has been lied to and fooled into falsely marrying, they have almost every right that a regular spouse has when seeking divorce damages.

Both of these alternative marriages follow many of the same guidelines as regular marriages. Common law marriages are even recognized by the IRS. Both marriages need some form of legal resolution if they end. However, spouses entering a common law marriage are aware that the marriage they are entering is not a standard one, while one or both partners in a putative marriage do not know.

An Overview of Putative Marriage

An Overview of Putative Marriage

A putative marriage is an invalid marriage that is entered in good faith by at least one of the two participants. While an individual in a putative marriage may have no idea he or she is in an illegitimate marriage, he or she may find out that there is a legal impediment in the way of his or her marriage’s legality. This is usually due to a spouse’s previous marriage. The putative spouse must have entered into the marriage in good faith, without knowing that the marriage was illegitimate, to be considered putative. Sometimes both spouses will be putative spouses. This means that neither spouse was aware of the fact that the marriage was invalid. If both spouses are putative spouses, then they may take steps to remove the impediment to the marriage’s legitimacy, thus legalizing their marriage. If they do not, then their marriage will remain illegitimate. If one spouse is putative, then he or she will likely have been deceived by his or her partner. This is not the case if both spouses are putative. Many times, if both spouses were mistakenly in an illegitimate marriage the problem can be fixed. A new ceremony is not necessarily needed. When a marriage is validated, it is made retroactively legal from the date of inception.


When one finds out he or she is in a fraudulent, putative marriage, he or she has only two options. He or she can remove the legal problem that is making his or her marriage invalid or he or she can conclusively end the marriage itself. The  actions that the putative spouse takes will most likely depend on the circumstances and the implications of those circumstances. If there was no deceit involved in the marriage, then the putative spouse is more likely to remove the legal impediment and continue in the marriage than he or she is likely to end the relationship. For example, if one spouse had no idea that a divorce was not processed, and cannot be held at fault for the marriage being deemed as putative, then the spouse uninvolved in the divorce would not have much reason to pursue a divorce. If, however, the putative spouse was told that his or her partner was divorced and the supposedly divorced partner knew otherwise, then the putative spouse will most likely want to end the relationship. The court expects the putative spouse to file for an annulment or begin divorce proceedings if he or she finds out the relationship has been deceitful from the beginning. This is why the court is willing to extend protection to putative spouses. If an individual finds out he or she is in a putative marriage and takes no action, then he or she is not protected by any laws. Staying in the marriage constitutes fraud.

For a marriage to be considered putative, the marriage must meet three conditions. At least one of the spouses must be putative, meaning that he or she must enter the marriage believing that it is genuine and legal. This is called entering in good faith. If both parties knew that the marriage was not valid from day one, then they are both at fault and have committed fraud. That marriage is not considered to be putative, since both parties had knowledge of its illegitimacy. If neither party knew the marriage was invalid, then they are both innocent. Such a marriage could still be considered putative. The second guideline is that the putative marriage must have been officiated by an individual who is or was thought to be licensed. Besides a former divorce that was never completed, one of the next most common causes of putative marriages is the officiation of a marriage by an unlicensed official. If that is the case then having a new civil or religious ceremony should validate the marriage. The third condition needed is the belief on behalf of one or both parties that the marriage was maintained in a lawful manner.

A couple who is in a putative marriage are not legally married. Accordingly, they have to either make the marriage legitimate or end it completely. Existing in a state of putative marriage is fruitless. In fact, the marriage is not longer putative if the putative spouse decides to stay in it, since both parties are now aware of the illegality of their union. The laws that exist to protect the putative spouse does not protect the other spouse. If both spouses are putative, then both are protected.
Various Reasons for Usage

There are different reasons why one may find themselves in a putative marriage. The most common reason is due to a previous divorce of one of the parties that was never completed. There is no statistical evidence on whether it is more common for both parties to be putative or just one. However, an individual who finds out that their divorce was never completed can take the steps of finalizing it once they are aware. If a spouse was purposely told that their partner had divorced when the partner knew it was not true, then they are putative. Another reason why an individual may trick a putative spouse into marriage is for financial reasons. If one knows they are legally unable to marry but does it anyway, they may have married to try to gain financial resources. Luckily, only the putative spouse can seek damages when ending the illegitimate marriage. This stops the fraudulent partner from being awarded for what they have done. Other reasons that one may find themselves in a putative marriage vary. Any marriage of an incestuous nature is automatically void from the start. If a couple was married by someone without the proper license for performing the wedding, they are in a putative marriage.
Difference on State Levels
Not every state recognizes the putative marriage, although most states do have laws set up to protect the putative spouse. In general, states adopted their no fault divorce policies from the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act. This allowed states to grant divorces to couples without placing blame on either. From this, most states formed their definition of exactly what a putative spouse is. Most states do recognize the putative marriage but only two states recognize both that and common law marriage. Those two states are Colorado and Montana. Colorado has a typical definition of a putative spouse, if there is just one in the relationship. A putative spouse is defined in state law as one who lives with an individual who they believe in good faith to be their lawfully wedded spouse. If they have been deceived, most states allow for an annulment to be granted. The putative spouse is also allowed to sue for anything that a regular person in the process of divorce might seek such as alimony and property. Every state law recognizes a child’s right to be supported by both parents, so any issues involving child custody, support or visitation can be worked out no matter where the location.
Examples in Case Law

Case law refers to any available writings about a court case. Typically, the judge or judges will write about the decision or verdict that was made in order to provide clarity on the subject. This way, if a case has to be tried in several different courts, the new judges can read what the previous judges had to say about the matter. The putative marriage doctrine was created as a way to set clear guidelines about defining and dealing with putative marriage. Prenuptial agreements are an example of an issue with which putative spouses have to deal. If a putative spouse is married to an individual who has a prenuptial agreement, they have a right to challenge the prenuptial agreement in court. Prenuptial agreements may become completely voidin the case of a putative marriage, making it easier for the putative spouse to get a fair settlement.
Religious Usage
Catholic Canon law is clear about the status of children born into putative marriages. They are still considered to be legitimate in the eyes of the church. This is because at least one of the individuals in the marriage thought that it was valid. Canon law relies on the belief that these individuals should not be punished for being ignorant of the fact that their marriage was not valid. Therefore any child conceived in or born into a putative marriage is considered to be legitimate. Today’s Putative Marriage Doctrine derives from the Canon laws that relate to putative marriage. Many times a putative marriage that had only one putative spouse will end with an annulment being granted. While children of couples who receive annulments are not always considered to be legitimate under Canon law, the cases involving putative marriages are considered to be special circumstances that allow for legitimacy.
Putative Marriage Lawyers
Seeking the help of a lawyer that specializes in family litigation is important when dealing with the fallout of a putative marriage. If a couple decides to stay and legitimize a putative marriage, then consulting with a lawyer is a smart next move to take. Since law varies state to state, a lawyer should be able to help make a couple aware of their options and what they have to do to make their marriage valid. Some marriages can be validated by having a new civil ceremony. Others may need to work on completing a previous divorce again. A marriage lawyer can also help the putative spouse to protect themselves. If one finds out that they are a putative spouse, they are still generally entitled to anything that other separated or divorcing spouses are entitled to. A marriage lawyer can help their client to recover what is rightfully theirs under state property laws. Another job of the marriage lawyer is to decide if actual divorce proceedings are needed or just an annulment. One can find a marriage lawyer to help with their putative marriage resolution by searching in their local phone book or on the Internet.
Putative Marriage Versus Common Law Marriage

A common law marriage is not a putative marriage. Common law marriages are also known as informal marriages. Not every state recognizes a common law marriage as being real. To enter into one a couple must vow to live together in a manner that is like a married couple. The marriage is not recognized by the government since no marriage license is needed. A marriage license is needed in a putative license, even though it is not valid. Each party in a common law marriage knows that they are not really married, while one or both parties in a putative marriage believes that they are. Common law couples must be legally able to marry. Any marital requirements, including age must be recognized by common law couples. A putative marriage is based on false premises from the beginning, although it may only be known by one individual. Common law couples generally must live together for a period of time. Both common law and putative spouses are allowed to seek damages if their relationship ends. Both putative and common law marriages need a formal ending, whether it be an annulment or something like divorce proceedings.
Application In Other Countries

Other countries treat putative marriage in a similar way that the United States does. Many places offer putative spouses protection when their invalid marriages fall apart. Europe especially has publicly recognized putative marriage to be a valid form of marriage in terms of protection for the putative spouse. Although putative marriage is not technically marriage, it can be recognized as such in the eyes of the law if need be. Many countries recognize a backdated marriage. This means that a putative marriage that is later validated can be considered to exist legally since the original marriage date, even though it was invalid.

Understanding Religious Usage of a Putative Marriage

Understanding Religious Usage of a Putative Marriage

A marriage ceremony can be a civil one or a religious one. Canon law states that any child born into a putative marriage is legitimate. This means that whether or not the marriage ceremony itself was valid, the child still is since the marriage was thought to be valid. A Catholic marriage that ends with an annulment technically tends to take away a child’s legitimacy. 
The point of an annulment is to decree that the marriage never officially took place. Since the circumstances of a putative marriage are different then that of a regular one, allowances are made for the child. A Catholic marriage may need to be annulled if one of the participants wants to remarry in the Catholic Church but annulments are more standard when it comes to handling the end of a putative marriage.
The Putative Marriage Doctrine, which has been codified by several states in America was derived from the Canon law stance on putative marriage. The same considerations are needed to define a putative marriage. The nature of having a doctrine for it is to try to make the process of dissolving a putative marriage safe for the individuals in it. This means that the putative spouse should still be protected under standard matrimonial laws.
Current Canon laws involving children and matrimony state that all children born into matrimony are legitimate. Therefore, any children born into a putative marriage are legitimate as well.
A valid marriage ceremony must be performed in a Catholic marriage to be considered binding. If a marriage ceremony was not performed, then no annulment is needed since it was never considered to be a valid marriage in the first place.

What You Need to Know About Putative Marriages

What You Need to Know About Putative Marriages

One reason why an individual may enter a putative marriage with someone instead of a traditional one is if they are unsure of how to fix their own legal dilemma, or unwilling to invest the time and money that it will take to fix their legal problem. Often, an old marriage that was never legally eradicated will render the new marriage null and void. On the other hand, if an individual is unaware that  previous marriage has not been legally voided, then both spouses will be putative, as long as it can be proven that the individual did not know that he or she was still married. 
       Another reason that one may knowingly enter a putative marriage is for financial gain. Some traditional marriage values depend on the income of the spouse one is marrying. While romanticized views of marriage may mistake this for alimonychildren
       A third reason that one may find themselves in a putative marriage a technical matter such as the legitimacy of the individual officiating the marriage ceremony. If the individual was found to be unlicensed for performing marriages in that state, then the couple should have no trouble entering a traditional marriage by having a new wedding ceremony. Once the legal problem is gone, then the marriage can become valid. No marriage that is a putative marriage can become valid until the legal impediment is gone.
Using the laws that govern putative marriage to free oneself from an individual without having to suffer the financial losses may be necessary, depending on the circumstances. However, it is also likely that both parties are in the dark about the circumstances of their putative marriage.

Learn About the Application for Putative Marriage

Learn About the Application for Putative Marriage

The marriage laws that govern putative marriages vary from state to state. However, the general guidelines of putative marriage law remain the same. There are three well known conditions that must exist within a marriage for putative marriage laws to apply. One of these marriage laws is that at least one of the individuals in the marriage must have been unaware of the existence of the technicality that negates the marriage’s validity.

If both parties in the marriage knew that it was technically not legal, than they are both at fault and neither is entitled to anything from the other. That type of marriage is not considered putative, as marriage law clearly states that at least one individual in the marriage must be completely unaware that the technicality existed for that marriage to fall into the putative category.

In a continuance of the first marriage law governing putative marriage, the ignorant individual must have been ignorant of the technicality at the time of the marriage as well as for the duration of it. This regulation is based on the idea that any spouse who finds out that his or her partner is purposely lying to him or her and misrepresenting a marriage should leave the deceitful partner.

The second marriage law for determining if a marriage is putative is that the marriage must have been officiated by an individual licensed to marry couples in the couple’s state or otherwise capable of performing a legal marriage. If the marriage was not brought about in a legal fashion, then the marriage was never legal in the first place. Theoretically, if the spouses were misled by an officiating party that did not have the right to perform a legally sanctioned individual, then they might be able to receive damages from that party, and might still be granted some form of putative status with regard to one another, up until the point of discovery.

Lastly under marriage laws, the marriage itself must be considered to be a lawful one by the putative spouse or spouses. A lawful marriage is one in which both parties are of legal age and mental capacity to marry.

Any marriage that is entered into legally is governed by marriage laws. Even though a putative marriage is technically not a legal marriage, proof of the three conditions being met is enough to grant typical divorce rights to that of the putative, or fooled, spouse. A putative spouse can sue for alimony and rights to assets under marriage law.