What is a Palimony Agreement?

Instructor: Joe Ricker

Joe has a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.

If you're planning on moving in with a significant other but don't want to get married, there's little financial protection you can count on without a palimony agreement.

Palimony

Palimony is compensation from one member of an unmarried couple to another after separation. An important thing to keep in mind is that palimony is not a legal term. Unlike alimony, which is compensation made to a former spouse after a divorce, palimony is not something guaranteed to unmarried couples who have terminated their mutual living arrangements. A palimony agreement is a contract that determines what compensation, if any, will be made if an unmarried couple separates.

A palimony agreement protects individuals in a live-in relationship who aren't married. If an unmarried couple without an agreement splits, they may only be able to take what they brought into the relationship, regardless of fault. This also means that a person might keep everything that is legally in their name, which poses problems for unmarried couples who have acquired assets jointly. A palimony agreement is the only legal way to ensure compensation if an unmarried couple splits.

Origin

Palimony is a term coined by divorce attorney Marvin Mitchelson in 1977 when he represented Michelle Triola in her split with actor Lee Marvin. Mitchelson argued that Marvin had promised to care for Triola for the remainder of her life. Mitchelson filed a suit against Marvin but the courts rejected it, allowing Marvin to keep his assets. This highlights the importance of a written agreement between couples who choose not to legally marry.

Today, many states don't regard palimony as an option. As of 2016, in fact, 24 states reject palimony as a legal entitlement. Several states also reject common-law marriage (when a couple has lived together for a certain period of time but has never actually gotten married). While implied contracts or even oral contracts are sometimes taken into consideration, they are difficult to prove in court. It is recommended that anyone entering into a living situation with another person should have some form of written agreement.

Factors for Consideration

In order to be granted palimony, which is not guaranteed, the following things are taken into consideration by the courts to justify awarding the plaintiff in a palimony case:

Cohabitation: When an unmarried couple lives together in a sexual relationship.

Financial Commitment: If there are written financial agreements between the couples; the plaintiff's ability to provide for themselves financially; sacrifices made by one partner for another in terms of career; etc.

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