Under California law, you do not have to be legally married in order to receive financial support from your partner. By filing a Marvin claim, you could receive “palimony” after your relationship has ended.
A Marvin claim gets its name from a 1976 California Supreme Court decision known as Marvin v. Marvin 18 Cal.3d 660 [134 Cal.Rptr. 815, 557 P.2d 106]. This was the first case to address rights that a partner, who is not married, may have from an expressed or implied agreement for property sharing after they separate. You do not have the same rights as a legally married spouse, but can win support if you can prove a contract exists between you and your partner.
Marvin Claim Based on Cohabitation
In California, two people living together or cohabitating, have a legal relationship and a claim on each other’s property or assets. When your relationship terminates, property and income can be divide between you and your partner.
In 1976, the California courts recognized a cause of action that one partner might have against another based on an implied agreement or understanding while the two were cohabitating. As a result of famous “palimony” cases tried in California, the concept of living together began to have legal consequences. Rights that once only a spouse had, such as money owed for support to one person by another after the relationship dissolved, are now commonly considered in relationships were no marriage existed.
Evaluating Marvin Claim for Support
To evaluate a Marvin claim for support, the court will look at factors such as how long the parties lived together, if one of the parties was providing financial support while the other was attending to homemaking and/or childcare duties, and if the parties jointly contributed towards the purchase of property. If the parties worked together in a business, the relative contributions of each party would also be considered in determining if a support claim is founded. Contributions that allowed one person to attend school to boost his or her earning potential will also be given careful consideration.
Actions Supporting a Marvin Claim
Marvin claims are most likely to be successful if the couple was in a cohabitating relationship for a significant amount of time, there is a large income discrepancy between the parties, and the person seeking support can prove that he or she sacrificed potential earnings in order to do what was necessary for his or her partner’s career advancement.
In one case, the court denied a Marvin claim because the partners never lived together. In Taylor v. Fields (1986) 178 Cal.App.3d 653 [224 Cal.Rptr. 186], the plaintiff, Taylor, was unsuccessful in her support request even though she had a relationship with a married man for 42 years. She sued his widow after his passing, claiming that he had agreed to take care of her financially. The court found that she had no relationship that fell within Marvin claim principles because she never lived with her lover.
Marvin Claim for Property
Unmarried people living together have no rights to the other person’s property unless they have entered into a cohabitation agreement, which can be either written or implied. The built-in protection that a spouse has as a married person does not exist when two people live together. The fact that two people are living together or cohabitating is irrelevant to property rights between the two. The obligation one person has to another is strictly a contract question with no consideration of their cohabitation arrangement.
For example, the length of time the parties lived together is of no consequence to the amount of support, if any, that is awarded after the relationship terminates. The amount awarded depends on the agreement that existed between the couple. On the other hand, the length of a marriage is a determining factor is awarding support and dividing property. The relevant question in cohabitation arrangements is whether the two people had an agreement to divide property, own assets together, or support one another. A claim based on that agreement is known as a Marvin claim.
Marvin Claims in Bankruptcy
The judgment your ex-partner owes on a Marvin claim can be discharged if he or she files bankruptcy. However, awards for spousal support are not dischargeable and must be paid. Moreover, spousal support payments are tax deductible.
A cohabitation agreement protects your interests by clearly spelling out your obligations to one another. If one of you is supporting the other person by paying a mortgage, utility bills, buying food, clothing or vehicles, the agreement can provide that such support will terminate if the relationship ends.
The agreement needs to cover how you and your partner wish to be treated during the relationship and when it terminates. Some points of interest are:
- Each partner’s obligation for expenses.
- Each partner’s obligation for debts.
- Support to be provided.
- No obligation for support if all expenses are shared equally.
- Amount and number of payments, if any, made by one partner to the other after relationship is terminates.
- Waiver of any claims of support after the relationship is terminated.
- Contributions to any joint bank account and classification of funds held in the account.
- Disposition of jointly owned property and distribution of the proceeds.
- Revoking the agreement if cohabitation is ended on mutual agreement.
- Distribution of property upon one partner’s death.
Marvin Claims and Marriage
Marriage does not extinguish your right to file a Marvin claim. The Marvin claim is a separate lawsuit from the divorce proceedings. Once the lawsuit is filed, it can then be consolidated with the divorce action.
Marvin Claim Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations for a Marvin Claim based on a contract is 4 years after the relationship ends if there is a written agreement. If the agreement is oral or implied, there is a 2-year statute of limitations. The important thing to note is when the relationship ends which can be an issue tried in court. Additionally, you should remember that the agreement does not have to be written or express to be enforceable. Instead, if one of the partners in a cohabitation arrangement can prove that an implied partnership (i.e., contract) existed, that party may be owed compensation. Moreover, cohabitation is not a prerequisite to the finding of an implied agreement between unmarried persons concerning their property.
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California Prenuptial Agreement