If you’re cohabitating but unmarried, it’s important to consider what might happen financially if you broke up with your partner or either one of you passed away. There are many reasons why couples choose to cohabitate including testing the relationship, pursuing a career, educational opportunities or simply preferring not to be married. Whatever the reason may be, it’s important to recognize that without an agreement in place the breakup or death of one of the parties could cause huge financial problems. That’s why many unmarried couples are entering into agreements that set out how property will be divided if the relationship ends or one of the parties dies.

How California Courts View Palimony

Unmarried couples are not entitled to the property, inheritance and spousal support rights of married couples, but they do have the right to enter into an agreement that specifies how these issues are handled. That said, California does place some restrictions on agreements between unmarried couples. For example, an agreement that includes a provision for support, known as palimony, is not enforceable unless the couple is cohabitating. California courts have reasoned that the purpose of palimony is to compensate an individual for unpaid domestic services and without this limitation the courts would be flooded with palimony claims brought by dating couples. It’s important to understand that the domestic services provided must be legal in the state of California. This means that taking care of children, doing the laundry and cooking are acceptable, but sex is not.

Agreements To Divide Assets Upon Break Up or Death

It’s especially important for high earners and high net worth individuals to set expectations for how their property will be allocated upon a break-up or the death of the other partner. These are some of the common types of property that is included in an agreement:

  • Business or Professional Practice;
  • Stocks and Investments;
  • House or Real Estate;
  • Vehicles;
  • Art and Antiques and
  • Pensions and Retirement Accounts.

The courts will typically honor contracts between unmarried couples, but contracts can be contested, so it’s important to ensure that your agreement is properly drafted and executed.

Marvin Claims In California

In California, claims by unmarried partners to enforce palimony or property sharing agreements are called Marvin claims. The claim gets its name from the decision in the 1976 case Marvin v. Marvin, where the court held that contracts between unmarried couples for palimony and property sharing were enforceable. If you’ve been served with a Marvin claim or would like to bring an action to enforce an agreement with your unmarried partner, it’s important to hire an attorney with experience in this area. Envision Family Law, LLP has attorneys that are knowledgeable and experienced with family law issues concerning unmarried couples.