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Everything You Need to Know About California Palimony


California is known for breaking new ground in the legal world of relationship rights. While most people are familiar with the concept of alimony, few have heard of palimony. Understanding palimony will be helpful if you’re in a long-term committed relationship in California.

What is Palimony?

Palimony refers to the financial support awarded to one partner after the termination of a non-marital relationship. Unlike alimony, palimony applies to individuals in long-term, committed relationships that have not been formally married. Palimony is a legal concept unique to California and rooted in a landmark case that captured public attention called Marvin v. Marvin.

Case of Marvin v. Marvin

Understanding the legal precedent for palimony helps us understand why the law exists. In 1976, actor Lee Marvin and his former partner Michelle Triola Marvin found themselves in a highly publicized legal battle. Michelle argued she was entitled to financial support due to their long-term relationship and her ongoing support as a spouse that enabled her partner’s career. Previously, a former partner legally owed financial support in California if they had previously been married. The California Supreme Court ruled in Michelle’s favor, recognizing that individuals who cohabit in a marriage-like relationship may have enforceable rights to financial support.

Difference Between Palimony and Common Law Marriage

Palimony is similar to the more commonly known concept of common law marriage. However, palimony and common law are two distinct legal concepts that relate to different factors of relationships and how they are legally recognized.


Palimony refers to the financial support awarded to one partner after terminating a non-marital relationship. It is a concept unique to California, and specific requirements must be met for a relationship to qualify for palimony.

Common Law Marriage

Common law marriage refers to legally recognizing a marital relationship without a formal marriage ceremony or marriage license. In states that recognize common law marriage, couples who meet specific criteria, such as cohabiting for a significant period and presenting themselves as married, may be considered legally married without a formal ceremony.


Palimony is recognized in California, where the courts have established guidelines for determining financial support in non-marital relationships. However, unlike common law, it is not recognized in some other states or countries, so the situation could be complex if one party leaves California. It is best to consult with an experienced family law attorney if your circumstances are unique.

Common law marriage is recognized in some states within the United States, while others do not acknowledge it. Each state has specific criteria and requirements for establishing a common-law marriage, so it’s best to consult an expert in your local laws that can advise on your unique situation.

Legal Obligations

Palimony primarily focuses on financial support after the termination of a non-marital relationship. It addresses the potential financial obligations of one partner to the other, similar to alimony in a marriage.

Common law marriage focuses on legally recognizing a marital relationship without a formal marriage ceremony. It confers legal rights and obligations similar to those of a traditionally married couple, such as inheritance rights, tax benefits, and the division of property in case of separation.


To establish a claim for palimony, individuals in California must prove the existence of an agreement or understanding between partners regarding financial support after separation. This agreement can be explicit or implied, but evidence must support it.

The requirements for establishing a common law marriage vary by state. Generally, they involve cohabitation for a significant period, presenting yourselves as a married couple and intending to be married without a formal ceremony. Meeting these criteria is essential to be recognized as legally married under common law.

There is No Automatic Right to Palimony

It’s important to note that, unlike in a marital context, there is no automatic entitlement to palimony in California. Couples who cohabitate without marrying must establish an agreement or understanding that provides financial support after separation for palimony to be relevant to their case. This can be challenging, as the burden of proof rests on the party seeking palimony.

Laws regarding palimony and common-law marriage can vary significantly depending on the jurisdiction. Mediation could work for you and your former partner. It is always advisable to consult with a local attorney or legal professional to understand your area’s specific laws and regulations regarding relationship obligations.

Document Cohabitation Agreements in Writing

It is wise to consider a cohabitation agreement to protect your rights and establish a clear understanding regarding financial support. A legal contract specifying living arrangements and expectations allows unmarried couples to define their financial rights and obligations during separation. By addressing potential disputes upfront, couples in California can avoid emotional disputes, lengthy legal battles, and an unstable living environment surrounding separation.

Want to Clarify Your Obligations? Seek Legal Counsel

Palimony is an important legal concept that can have far-reaching implications for individuals in long-term committed relationships. Understanding the basics of California palimony, including its origins, key factors, and the importance of legal agreements, is crucial for anyone seeking clarity on relationship rights. By being informed and proactive, you can confidently secure your financial interests and navigate the legal landscape in the Golden State.

If you are in a palimony dispute or wish to establish a cohabitation agreement, seeking legal counsel is essential. Our team can provide guidance, explain your rights, and help you navigate the complexities of the legal system. With the expertise of Argyis Mah, you can protect your interests and achieve a fair resolution. Call us today to schedule a free consultation.

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