Good Faith Belief in Valid Marriage is Subjective

In a landmark decision, the California Supreme Court reversed 25 years of California law that a cultural marriage must be both in “good faith” and “reasonable” to be valid.

In reversing IRMO Vryonis (1988) 202 Cal.App.3d 712, the Court stated: “We disagree with Vryonis and its progeny to the extent they hold good faith is tested by an objective standard that examines whether the facts surrounding the marriage would cause a hypothetical reasonable person to believe in its validity, i.e., a reasonable person test… Although an objective test has been found appropriate in … [the context of criminal cases], such a test is at odds with the precodification putative spouse decisions holding good faith is a factual inquiry that assesses a party’s credibility and state of mind in light of all the circumstances at issue, including the party’s personal background and experience…”.

In IRMO CEJA (2013 [S193493, Ct.App. 6 H034826, Super. Ct. Nos. CV112520 & CV115283]), decision filed today, the Court concluded that, “Indeed, a reasonable person test would make it markedly more difficult to extend the civil benefits of marriage to those parties most in need of the putative spouse doctrine and its protection, namely, those innocents whose youth, inexperience, or lack of education or sophistication contributed to an honest belief in the validity of their marriages…”

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