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Are Unmarried Couples Living Together Entitled to Any Rights Enjoyed by Married Couples?

In a survey done by Pew and Time magazine in 2010 of 2,691 Americans, 40% of those polled believed that marriage is obsolete—an attitude displayed by the rising prevalence of unmarried couples who are cohabitating. Individuals who have lived with their partners for a long period of time may wonder whether they are entitled to the same (or at least some) rights which married people possess. As evidenced by the numerous inquiries received by this firm, many people assume that if they have been cohabitating with their partner for a certain length of time, they are considered to be married under “common law” and are therefore entitled to the same rights as a married couple. In California, however, common law marriages are not recognized, and generally speaking unmarried couples who are merely cohabitating are not entitled to the same rights and protections as married people, such as spousal support.

After non-married persons end their relationship they may be entitled to recover post-relationship support, or “palimony.” Palimony was made famous by the case Marvin v. Marvin in which a court ordered actor Lee Marvin to pay his ex-girlfriend $104,000 for “rehabilitation purposes” as a result of promises he made to her during their relationship. This was an unprecedented ruling at the time, and to this remains a significant legal precedent.

Initiating a palimony action concurrently with your family law case may be the strategic tool needed to expedite the outcome of your action and may yield financial support over and above what you’re entitled to according in the family courts. Following the end of a non-marital relationship, consider consulting with a family law or palimony attorney to evaluate your situation and help you determine whether any enforceable promises regarding support exist.

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