Joel Madden, Nicole Richie Pronounced Man and Wife!

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Erroneously, that is.

Nicole Richie appeared Monday in court and was granted a permanent protective order against celebrity gossip photographers she had accused of harassing her.

She told the court about the car accident she blamed on the the paparazzi. But the news that caused the most buzz was her attorney, Mark Geragos, repeatedly referring to Joel Madden as "your husband" during questioning of Richie.

That was news to us.

But while Richie and Madden have been together for three years and have two young children, they have not, as far as we know, actually gotten married.

There is no marriage license on file in L.A. County for the duo. Afterward, Geragos explained the husband reference, calling it his mistake, nothing more.

Nicole and Harlow

Nicole Richie married? No. Mother of a cute daughter? Yes!

He told E! News that Richie and Madden have a "common-law" marriage, and Richie and Madden, who were standing next to him, didn't say otherwise.

However, California doesn't recognize common-law marriage, and a source close to the couple insisted that Geragos just misspoke, plain and simple.

That settles that.

As for the hearing, Richie and Madden both took the stand to discuss Nicole's recent car accident that they blamed on the pesky pair of paparazzi peeps.

Joel said of his non-wife and two-time baby mama: "She's with the kids 24-7. She takes them to work. She's constantly terrified" of what will happen.

Judge Carol Goodson acknowledged that the photographers do have a right to earn a living, but granted a protective order because "the court is extremely concerned about the possibility of a future accident" involving Nicole and her kids.

The photogs, who were also present in court, apologized to Richie and "promised" to leave her alone. The paps must now stay at least 50 feet away.

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