Though California does not recognize common law marriage, that does not mean that you do not have rights. If you are cohabitating with your partner, you still retain individual property rights. However, after a breakup, you will not go through the same property division process as a legally married couple. In the event of a separation, you may have rights to shared property, including some assets that were earned during the relationship. You will need to work with a skilled attorney familiar with cohabitation cases to ensure your rights are protected.
Property Rights of Unmarried Couples
Cohabitation does not simply mean living together. For example, two roommates sharing rent are not in a cohabitation relationship. Similarly, if your former partner stayed over a couple of times a week, this does not qualify as cohabitation. There must be a romantic element to the relationship.
You may have either written or verbal contracts between yourself and your partner that identify property as community property in a cohabitating relationship. These agreements may be enforceable by law. Written agreements are typically more easily enforced than oral contracts. However, if you have a verbal agreement with a former partner, the situation can be investigated, and you may still have a successful resolution to your case.
Common cohabitation cases involve:
- Disputes over property
- Disputes over assets
- Financial issues, including financial support
- Custody and child support issues
Marvin Actions are filed when a cohabitating couple breaks up or separates. They are named after a 1976 California Supreme Court Case Marvin v. Marvin that established that cohabitating partners could legally enforce implied or expressed agreements regarding property and support. For example, one can file a Marvin Action to receive their fair share of property earned during the relationship.
When assessing Marvin Actions, some of the same things are looked at as in a divorce. For example, how long you lived together, whether one person supported the other financially, and what each person contributed to the household/relationship.
What Is Palimony?
Palimony is very similar to alimony or spousal support. This term refers to financial support payments made after an unmarried, cohabitating couple breaks up. While many states do not recognize palimony, California does, and this is directly died to the Marvin v. Marvin case of 1976. However, to receive palimony, there must be an existing, legally enforceable agreement between the couple regarding promised support.
It is important to remember that palimony suits can be very difficult to resolve. If you believe you have a case, you should contact a skilled attorney familiar with handling palimony cases in California. Your lawyer can help you determine if pursuing your case in court is your best option.
Do I Need a Cohabitation Agreement?
If you plan to live with your partner without getting married, it might be worth speaking to a lawyer about establishing a cohabitation agreement. These agreements are very similar in function to prenuptial agreements. They can identify both community and separate property and make provisions for property division and financial support in case of a breakup. This is often the best way to protect yourself legally and may help you and your partner get on the same page regarding property and financial obligations.