(CN) - A woman who discovered that the man she wed in Vegas in 1972 was still married to another woman lost her bid to stop him from demanding half the property they had acquired during their 34 years together.
A California appeals court ruled that the marriage had been a "putative" one, because at one party believed it was valid.
Petra and Pablo Tejeda got married in Las Vegas in 1972. More than 30 years later, Petra learned that Pablo had been married to Margarita Tejeda when they were wed. He divorced his first wife in 1976, and filed for divorce from Petra in 2006.
Petra asked the court to grant her sole ownership of the property in her possession, claiming her marriage to Pablo was an invalid, bigamous union.
But Pablo insisted he was entitled to half the community property -- including property listed in Petra's name only -- because Petra had believed their marriage was valid. He said "fault" was irrelevant in a putative marriage.
The 6th District Court of Appeal in San Jose agreed.
"[O]nce either party is a putative spouse, the union is a putative marriage," Justice McAdams wrote (original emphasis). "Thus, even where only one party has the requisite good faith belief in the validity of the marriage ... the union itself is a putative marriage."
And in a putative marriage, the court concluded, the parties must divide the property equally.