History of Palimony
The term first emerged in 1976 when actor Lee Marvin was petitioned by former live-in girlfriend to pay financial support. The girlfriend claimed that the actor had agreed to provide her with financial support, although the agreement was not in writing. Similar to many wives’ claims at the time, the girlfriend said that she had given up her own career in order to support the actor’s career and be a homemaker. The girlfriend claimed that the actor had agreed that she was entitled to one-half of the income and property acquired during the relationship.
The California appeals court held that a written contract was not necessary for such financial support to be awarded and that if an implied contract did exist, it would be enforceable. However, the California Supreme Court found that the girlfriend did not prove the existence of such a contract. Nonetheless, the case set a precedent in California that was later applied in other states that provided for support payments to a non-spouse.
Types of Alimony
Like with marital alimony, palimony may take on a number of forms. It helps determine how assets and real property will be divided upon a termination of the relationship. Lump-sum palimony may be awarded in which the higher-earning or wealthier partner may be ordered to make a one-time payment to help the other partner transition to the next stage of life.
Rehabilitative palimony may be ordered in which a partner receives a monthly support payment for a period of time while he or she works on becoming more financially self-reliant by looking for work or finishing a certification or college degree program. Permanent alimony is less likely to be awarded due to alimony reform in many areas and the court’s reluctance to tie a former romantic partner to an indefinite number of support payments to someone to whom he or she was never married.
Factors to Consider
State courts that do recognize palimony may consider a number of factors in determining whether to award it. They may assess the length of the relationship, whether there were any writings or oral contracts made between the parties regarding financial support, the financial circumstances of each party and the sacrifices and contributions made by the recipient partner.
Even in states that do not accept the separate process of palimony, the lower-earning partner may still have a legal basis for recovery through a traditional contract theory. If the couple made an express contract orally or in writing, the court may enforce such an agreement. Some jurisdictions recognize implied contracts while others do not.
For example, a cohabitation agreement may spell out the promises made between the parties and property rights that are acquired during the relationship that extend past the termination of the relationship. Cohabitation agreements may also help specify that palimony will not be received by either party due to the alternative arrangements stated in the agreement.
However, the contract must be based on some exchange other than for sexual services. An illegal contract is not enforced under contract laws.
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