Does a spouse have social security or death benefits if separated for more than 30 years?

If a couple gets married and stays together for only 7 years, separates with no legal proceedings and stays separated for 30 years, is there a statute of limitations on their entitlements? Both couples have resided with common law partners over the last 30 year. Currently, the husband has serious health issues and death benefits are being discussed. Is the wife entitled to any payments post-mortem of the husband and does the common law partner have any entitlements in this matter?

Asked on March 30, 2017 under Family Law, Washington


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

The reason you found no help is because California does not recognize common law marriages. California does, however, recognize a right between couples such as you have decribed here (right to financial support and property settlements) but only under VERY rigid circumstances.  Here, though, there is a wrench in the works: there is a legal spouse still alive. The fact that the couple never divorced is significant and I would strongly suggest that you seek legal help here asap.  Good luck.

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