After a divorce, some spouses qualify to receive alimony payments from their ex-spouse. These payments are designed to maintain financial stability after the end of a marriage.

Determining alimony payments is already a complex concept. And it is no easier for unmarried cohabiters or same-sex couples considering a separation. However, palimony allows unmarried couples the same rights and abilities to collect support payments.

Understanding palimony

Palimony is not a legal term, but it does have legal power. It is a form of support payments that unmarried couples can collect after the end of a long-term relationship.

Courts generally consider similar factors as they do with alimony, such as:

  • A commitment between partners to share finances or support each other
  • A significant disparity of income between partners
  • How long the partners lived together
  • How long the partners were in a committed relationship

The right to palimony is not a guarantee, and there must be proof that couples agreed to share their finances.

Marvin v. Marvin and the start of palimony

In 1976, the California Supreme Court determined that unmarried partners have a right to support payments in the case of Marvin v. Marvin. The couple in question, Michelle Triola and actor Lee Marvin, were never married. However, when their relationship ended, Triola pursued financial support from Marvin.

The trial court did not award Triola financial support, but the case did set an example for other unmarried couples. California law recognized that individuals in long-term relationships could receive some of the same legal rights as married couples.

How is it helpful for same-sex couples?

The legalization of same-sex marriage is still new. And that fact often has a significant impact on cohabiting partners in long-term relationships that never registered as domestic partners.

For example, alimony payments depend heavily on the length of the marriage. Same-sex marriage has only been legal since 2008, but the couple could have been together long before then. Even so, alimony payments would only account for the length of a legal marriage.

That is where palimony comes in. Courts could calculate the full length of a relationship to decide palimony. It provides cohabitating partners with the same benefits that divorcing couples have to alimony payments after the end of a relationship.