Posts Tagged ‘Cultural Marriage,’


Transforming India’s Concept of Marriage

In India, urbanization, education and the rise of matrimonial websites are challenging centuries-old traditions of arranged marriage.

In a landmark decision, the California Supreme Court reversed 25 years of California law that a cultural marriage must be both in “good faith” and “reasonable” to be valid.

In reversing IRMO Vryonis (1988) 202 Cal.App.3d 712, the Court stated: “We disagree with Vryonis and its progeny to the extent they hold good faith is tested by an objective standard that examines whether the facts surrounding the marriage would cause a hypothetical reasonable person to believe in its validity, i.e., a reasonable person test… Although an objective test has been found appropriate in … [the context of criminal cases], such a test is at odds with the precodification putative spouse decisions holding good faith is a factual inquiry that assesses a party’s credibility and state of mind in light of all the circumstances at issue, including the party’s personal background and experience…”.

In IRMO CEJA (2013 [S193493, Ct.App. 6 H034826, Super. Ct. Nos. CV112520 & CV115283]), decision filed today, the Court concluded that, “Indeed, a reasonable person test would make it markedly more difficult to extend the civil benefits of marriage to those parties most in need of the putative spouse doctrine and its protection, namely, those innocents whose youth, inexperience, or lack of education or sophistication contributed to an honest belief in the validity of their marriages…”

You may get a copy of the case from

California Appellate Court, 6th District (Santa Clara):
Vryonis decision (1988) invalidating Iranian Cultural Marriage was erroneous

Santa Clara, California, April 19, 2011: In Ceja v. Rudolph & Sletten, Inc., the California Appellate Court for the 6th District held that an innocent party to an invalid marriage would be entitled to marital benefits even if her/belief were unreasonable. By this holding, the court disagreed with more than two decades of California law reflected in the case of “In re Marriage of Vryonis”, decided in 1988, which declared that good faith belief in validity of marriage must be reasonable. In Vryonis the court rejected claim of an Iranian woman who believed her private cultural marriage to her Greek husband was valid, although it was made in her home, without obtaining a marriage license as required by California law.
In Ceja, after death of her Husband at work, Mrs. Ceja brought action for wrongful death, but Husband’s employer moved for summary judgment claiming that as a matter of law, Mrs. Ceja did not qualify as a putative spouse because at the time of marriage knew that her Husband is married. The trial court agreed and granted summary judgment, applying an objective test for putative status. The court found that it was not objectively reasonable for Mrs. Ceja to have believed that her marriage was valid.

The appellate court disagreed. The court believed that good faith belief in validity of marriage asks whether that person actually believed the marriage was valid and whether he or she held that belief honestly, genuinely, and sincerely, without collusion or fraud. The court disagreed with In re Marriage of Vryonis, which held that the statutory language incorporates an objective test. The court found that:
1. The concept of putative spouse, allowing marital benefits to a spouse even if the marriage is defective is a judicially created relief and the judicial definition of the putative spouse required only a good faith belief in the validity of a marriage.
2. The Legislature codified that definition without intending to change it.
3. The Vryonis court engrafted an objective test to the statutory definition based on the legally unsupported view that “good faith belief” necessarily incorporates an objective standard.
4. The Vryonis court intruded upon the Legislature’s prerogative. The courts have followed and uncritically accepted Vryonis decision but the policy of stare decisis carries little weight. Despite its widespread acceptance, Vryonis created a conflict with prior cases. The rule of statutory construction is inapplicable, because there is an unresolved conflict in the judicial holdings.

For the complete texts of the Decisions, send an e-mail to Admin.


Failure of Attorney to Raise Existence of Cultural Marriage No Basis to Reverse Criminal Conviction

Wisconsin(March 4, 2009) : Mong Lor was convicted for the crime of sexual assault on a child under sixteen.  Post conviction, Lor brought a motion for postconviction relief arguing that his trial counsel should have argued a cultural marriage defense.  He claimed that the minor, 14, was married to him by the elders of the Hmong families, but the marriage was not registered under the law of the State of Wisconsin.  The victim, according to Lor, brought the charge of sexual assault of a child after the marriage fell apart.

The Court of Appeals of Wisconsin, District II, found that Wisconsin did not recognize a cultural marriage defense and thereby Lor cannot seek relief due to the  ineffective assistance of counsel.

For the complete texts of the Decisions, send an e-mail to Admin.