A California Appellate Court has ruled that under pre-California Family Law Code law, registration of the marriage certificate was not required in order to make valid a marriage that otherwise complied with the legal requirements of a marriage. In the case of In re Marriage of Cantarella, Mother and Father were married by a judge in 1991. Due to technical error on their marriage certificate, court clerk twice refused to register it. Mother and Father eventually gave up after that and thus, their marriage certificate was never registered. Sometime between 2000 and 2004, they were married in another ceremony. When they were divorced in 2008, their divorce judgment, among other things, required Father, as spousal support, to employ Mother as accountant in the family business, to pay her $38,000 per year, and to provide health care benefits for Mother and their 14-year-old daughter until their daughter graduated from high school.
Later, Father sought modification of the spousal support order. At the hearing, Father claimed that he and Mother had been married since 2000. Mother contended that they had been married in 1991. When, after some discussion, Trial Court asked Father if he had believed in 1991 that his marriage was valid, F replied, "I want to say no." Trial Court responded, "I don’t believe you." Trial Court then ruled that between 1991 and the second marriage ceremony, Mother and Father had a putative marriage, but after learning that 1991 marriage was invalid, they went through the second ceremony to have a valid marriage. Trial Court found that the parties’ marriage was of long duration and ordered Father to pay spousal support until death of either party, Mother’s remarriage, or further Trial Court’s order.
Claiming that Mother failed to show good faith belief in valid marriage before second ceremony, Father appealed, but now, the California Court of Appeals has affirmed Trial Court’s decision. The Appellate Court has found that under former law (Family Law Act; former California Civil Code §4000 et seq.) (1) registration of marriage certificate was duty of nonparty and served record keeping function unrelated to validity of marriage; (2) failure to register marriage certificate did not make marriage invalid; and (3) Trial Court did not err in concluding that the parties’ 1991 marriage was not invalid.