Changing “husband and wife” to “spouse” in California’s legal code

By Jennifer Felten

Senate Bill 1306 Amends California’s Statutory Marriage Rules and Terms

The California Constitution and statutory law prior to July, 2014 said that the only valid and recognizable marriages are between a man and a woman. The Constitutional Provision, which was enacted in 2008 by Proposition 8, was subsequently held unenforceable by a federal court. Based upon the unenforceability of the state’s Constitution, Senate Bill 1306 amends California’s family code with the intent to address the practicalities of California’s marriage laws so that the rights and responsibilities of spouses apply equally to opposite-sex and same-sex spouses.

Based thereon, the definition of a marriage has been changed from “a personal relationship arising out of a civil contract between a man and a woman” to “a personal relationship arising out of a civil contract between 2 persons.” All references to the terms “husband” and “wife” in the Code have been change to “spouse.” This new bill also says that California will recognize any marriage that was legally consummated under the rules of any other state.

For those of us in the real estate profession, these changes lead to the inevitable question of whether this new law will result in an elimination of the use of the terms “husband” and “wife” on legal documents. Such a change is unlikely, though it may expand the possible vesting capacities for married persons.


Jennifer Felten, Esq., Partner, felton, LLP,, 699 Hampshire Road, Suite 105, Westlake Village, CA 91361, (805) 265-1031, [email protected].  Ms. Felten specializes in representing both individuals and legal entities, providing representation and guidance on a variety of real estate related matters.

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