The narrow issue presented to the court was whether an attempt at solemnization was necessary for one to qualify as a putative spouse or whether a belief that a "common law" marriage was valid was sufficient. The court, however, felt the "principle issue" concerned the Family Law Act "which provides among other things that the concept of individual 'fault' or 'guilt' or 'punishment' for such human error shall not be considered in determining family property rights. Although never articulated as such, the court seemed to address the question of whether or not the putative-meretricious spouse distinction was consistent with the Family Law Act. In other words, instead of addressing the question, "What is a putative spouse?" the court asked "Is the putative spouse theory consistent with the "no fault" concept expressed in the Family Law Act?"
Laurel A. Olson,
In Re Marriage of Carey: The End of the Putative-Meretricious Spouse Distinction in California,
San Diego L. Rev.
Available at: https://digital.sandiego.edu/sdlr/vol12/iss2/14