Good Faith Belief in Marriage Qualifies Putative Spouse Under Wrongful Death Statute

  Wrongful death actions are creatures of statute and in California they are governed by Code of Civil Procedure sections 377.60 – 377.62. Section 377.60 defines who may bring a wrongful death cause of action. Subsection (b) provides that a wrongful death action may be brought by a decedent’s “putative spouse” if he or she was dependent on the decedent. Putative spouse is defined as “the surviving spouse of a void or voidable marriage who is found by the court to have believed in good faith that the marriage to the decedent was valid.” What do the words “believed in good faith” mean? Is the good faith inquiry a purely subjective one, or does the inquiry also require application of an objective test? Continue reading