Alimony can be granted even if a couple were never married? That's "palimony".

By , Attorney · UC Law San Francisco
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What is Palimony?

"Palimony" is basically alimony for unmarried cohabitating couples. Specifically, it's a spousal support-like payment that may be available to unmarried partners who are separating after living together for a period of time.

In some cases, one partner may ask for monthly payments of palimony after a break-up or may request a palimony settlement in the form of a one-time lump-sum payment. Either way, the first step is figuring out whether your state allows palimony.

Can I ask for Palimony in my State?

The term "palimony" was made famous in the California case of Marvin v. Marvin, 18 Cal.3d 660 (1976). The Marvin case involved actor Lee Marvin, who had been living with Michele Triola for a number of years. Triola claimed that Marvin had agreed to support her financially. Although the agreement wasn't in writing, Triola argued that it was proved by their actions. Triola gave up her own career to take care of Marvin and become his homemaker. In return, Marvin had agreed that Triola was entitled to one-half of his income and property acquired during their relationship. When the couple split, Triola sued for "palimony." The appeals court held that a written contract for palimony wasn't required, and if the parties' actions did in fact support the conclusion that an implied contract for palimony existed, then it would be enforceable.

This rules spelled out in the Marvin case apply only in California. Most other states that allow palimony follow a more traditional common law rule, which permits express written and oral contract theories, but rejects implied or constructive agreements for support. In addition, no court in the United States would enforce a contract solely for sexual services. See the resources sections below for a list of relevant state cases.

If you have specific questions about palimony in your state, you'll need to speak with an experienced family law attorney in your area. However, there are some general factors state courts may consider when deciding whether to award palimony, including:

  • the length of the relationship – if a couple cohabitated for a long time, for example over 10 years, a court is more likely to consider claims for financial support after a breakup
  • written agreements or contracts regarding financial support
  • oral promises or agreements regarding financial support, which can be substantiated or corroborated by other evidence
  • an implied understanding between the partners that one would provide financial support to the other after a breakup and/or for the rest of his or her life
  • the ability of the partner asking for palimony to support himself or herself
  • any sacrifices made by either partner to support the other, for example by giving up a career in order to take care of the couple's home or children
  • any sacrifices or contributions made by one partner to put the other through school so that he or she could earn a professional degree or obtain career advancements, and
  • a significant difference between the partners' incomes.

Getting help

A cohabitation agreement may help you avoid being on either end of a request for palimony. A cohabitation agreement should cover expectations and arrangements so that if you breakup, both parties will be protected. It's best if you and your partner hire your own lawyers and let your attorneys work out the terms of the cohabitation agreement on your behalf. Having your own attorney can help ensure that your rights are fully protected.


Here's some legal gobbledygook in case you're up for more research on the subject.

Alaska – Levar v. Elkins, 604 P.2d 602 (1980).
Arizona – Carroll v. Lee, 148 Ariz. 10, 712 P.2d 923 (1986); Cook v. Cook, 142 Ariz. 573, 691 P.2d 664 (1984).
Connecticut – Boland v. Catalano, 202 Conn. 333, 521 A.2d 142 (1987).
Florida – Poe v. Estate of Levy, 411 So. 2d 253 (1982).
Hawaii – Maria v. Frietas, 832 P.2d 259 (1992).
Indiana – Glasgo v. Glasgo, 410 N.E.2d 1325 (1980).
Iowa – Slocum v. Hammond, 346 N.W.2d 485 (1984).
Maryland – Donovan v. Scuderi, 51 Md. App. 217, 443 A.2d 121 (1982).
Michigan – Carnes v. Sheldon, 109 Mich. App. 204, 311 N.W.2d 747 (1981); Tyranski v. Piggins, 44 Mich. App. 570, 205 N.W.2d 595 (1973).
Mississippi – Pickens v. Pickens, 490 So. 2d 872 (1986).
Nebraska – Kinkenon v. Hue, 207 Neb. 698, 301 N.W.2d 77 (1981).
Nevada – Hay v. Hay, 100 Nev. 196, 678 P.2d 672 (1984); Warren v. Warren, 94 Nev. 309, 579 P.2d 772 (1978).
New Hampshire – Joan S. v. John S., 121 N.H. 96, 427 A.2d 498 (1981); Tapley v. Tapley, 122 N.H. 727, 449 A.2d 1218 (1982).
New Jersey – Crowe v. DeGioia, 90 N.J. 126, 447 A.2d 173, appeal after remand, 303 N.J. Super. 22, 495 A.2d 889, aff'd., 102 N.J. 50, 505 A.2d 591 (1986).
New Mexico – Dominguez v. Cruz, 95 N.M. 1, 617 P.2d 1322 (1980).
New York – Morone v. Morone, 50 N.Y.2d 481, 429 N.Y.S.2d 592, 407 N.E.2d 438 (1980).
North Carolina – Suggs v. Norris, 88 N.C. App. 539, 364 S.E.2d 159, cert. denied, 322 N.C. 486, 370 S.E.2d 236 (1988).
Oregon – Beal v. Beal, 282 Or. 115, 577 P.2d 507 (1978); Ireland v. Flanagan, 51 Or. App. 837, 627 P.2d 496 (1981).
Pennsylvania – Mullen v. Suchko, 279 Pa. Super. 499, 421 A.2d 310 (1980).
Texas – Small v. Harper, 638 S.W.2d 24 (1982).
Washington – In re Estates of Thornton, 81 Wash.2d 72, 499 P.2d 864 (1972).
Wisconsin – Watts v. Watts, 137 Wis.2d 506, 405 N.W.2d 303 (1987); Matter of Estate of Steffes, 95 Wis.2d 490, 290 N.W.2d 697 (1980).
Wyoming – Kinnison v. Kinnison, 627 P.2d 594 (1981).

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