Is Geena Davis a Putative Spouse?

Geena Davis is an American actress. She has many movie titles to her credit, including Tootsie, Beetlejuice and The Accidental Tourist. She received a best actress Oscar for her role in The Accidental Tourist.

In 2001, she married Dr. Reza Jarrahy in New York. In 2002, they had a daughter followed by twin sons in 2004.

In May of 2018, Jarrahy filed for divorce in California citing irreconcilable differences and listing their separation date as November 15, 2017.

In September of 2018, Davis petition the court to dismiss Jarrahy’s request for divorce, because they were never legally married.

According to Davis, when the couple “married” in New York in 2001, their marriage license was never properly returned to the court clerk for filing. Without that document (according to Davis), New York does not recognize the marriage. Therefore, they were never married.

She further claims that at no time did the couple ever file joint tax returns nor did they ever co-mingle their assets or debts. They always kept separate bank accounts and owned no property together. Further, she claims, the document was never filed with the court clerk, because she and Jarrahy decided not to file it.

California recognizes the validity of marriages performed in other states (just like other states recognize the validity of California marriages). However, the marriage ceremony must conform with that state’s own laws.

If the marriage is not valid, then the parties are considered separate individuals and responsible for separately going forward with their lives without the court’s help. Neither would be entitled to spousal support, nor division of community property and community debts.

However, there are two areas of the law, that may provide help to Jarrahy if the marriage is determined to be invalid. If he can show that he truly believed he was married, he may be entitled to relief under California’s putative spouse statute. Under the statute, both parties would be treated as if they were married and divorce statutes would be used to provide support and asset/debt distribution.

Or, if Jarrahy can show that Davis promised to provide for him for his life if he supported her as a married spouse would do, he may be granted relief under contract law – known informally as palimony.

Both options are very difficult to prove…

Stay tuned…

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