Blinded by the Light

The Maglite is a flashlight popular with some law enforcement personnel because of its high beam and, if necessary, the ability to be used as a weapon. It is also part of California's family law history.

In 1974, Anthony "Tony" Maglica, the inventor of the Maglite, and Claire Halasz fell in love. She and her two sons (from a former marriage) moved in with him, and lived as "husband and wife" with Claire as Tony's helpmate in the home and in his flashlight business.

When their relationship soured in 1992, they separated, Claire found herself without the rights afforded legally married spouses, and could not get justice in the family court system. She sued Tony in civil court, her only available option, for breach of contract, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and quantum meruit (value of services rendered). A jury awarded her $84 million dollars! After an appeal by Tony, Claire settled her case with him for $29 million dollars.

In California, a couple living together and acting as if they are legally married, will not establish a common law marriage. In fact, only those couples who moved to California after establishing common law marriages in states that recognized them, would receive recognition in California, and only for "divorce" issues, such as, support, property distribution, custody, etc.

In California, many couples not wanting to marry, but wanting to be treated as married couples, can register as domestic partners under the California Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act of 2003. The act gives these couples almost all of the legal rights, protections and benefits, as well as the responsibilities, that California grants to and imposes upon legally married spouses.

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