putative spouse doctrine

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The putative spouse doctrine protects the financial and property interests of a putative spouse. A putative spouse is a person who unknowingly entered into an invalid marriage, believing in good faith that it is a valid marriage. The putative spouse doctrine usually arises in the context of an invalid bigamous marriage (one of the partners is already married, and the putative spouse is the partner who is unaware). In jurisdictions that recognize the putative spouse doctrine, both the legal spouse and the putative spouse will generally be entitled to marital property rights.

[Last updated in January of 2024 by the Wex Definitions Team]