The Law Offices of Abbas Hadjian, APC

Tag: Cultural Marriage

Abbas Hadjian is now a Fellow of the International Association of Family Lawyers (IAFL)

Abbas Hadjian is now a Fellow of the International Association of Family Lawyers (IAFL). 

From the IAFL website

Connecting colleagues | Cultivating knowledge | Creating solutions

IAFL is a worldwide association of practicing lawyers who are recognized by their peers as the most experienced and skilled family law specialists in their respective countries.

IAFL was formed in 1986 as the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers to improve the practice of law and administration of justice in the area of divorce and family law throughout the world. In 2015 the IAML Board of Governors agreed that the Academy’s name should change to the International Academy of Family Lawyers, since this is a more appropriate, up-to-date and accurate description of what we are.

Services To Clients

IAFL Fellows are able to provide legal advice to clients and other lawyers on:


Good Faith Belief in Valid Marriage is Subjective

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: Belief in Cultural Marriage if in Good Faith may be Unreasonable

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 beliefs 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.

WISCONSIN: Hmong’s Cultural Marriage no Defense to Sexual Assault on Minor

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

State v. Mong Lor 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 post-conviction 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.