Palimony is financial support one former partner pays the other after they separate and end their relationship. However, unlike spousal support, a court orders a former partner to make palimony payments only when the partners lived together but were never married.
If you believe that you have a palimony claim or need assistance with another family law matter under California law, a family law attorney at our law firm can help. To learn more about the legal services we can offer you, call Evans Kingsbury LLP today at (707) 596-6090 or reach out to us online.
Understanding the Legal Basis for Palimony Actions
California law recognizes palimony claims in part because a California common law marriage does not exist under state law. Common law marriages are relationships in which parties live together for long periods but are not married. No matter how long you live together in California or whether you have children or own property, you will not have a valid common law marriage under California law.
However, state law recognizes a common law marriage in California that is valid under the laws of another state. In that case, a common law marriage would be treated as a California marriage under state law.
While family law courts handle divorce cases in California, civil courts handle palimony claims, similar to breach of contract or implied partnership claims. As a result, unlike married partners, unmarried partners have no statutory right to seek palimony or support from their ex-partners under California law. Just because the parties lived together as partners does not necessarily mean that one party is entitled to financial support after separating.
Factors the Court Considers in Ordering Palimony
The parties must have cohabitated for one former partner to have a palimony claim against the other. Therefore, any periods during which the parties may have been in a relationship, but did not live together, would not count toward determining entitlement to palimony.
For instance, one former partner might have a valid palimony claim if she can prove that she stayed home to care for the parties’ children so that the other partner could pursue a degree, start a career, and pay the family’s expenses. Likewise, a palimony claim may be successful if one former partner made much more money than the other and routinely paid for all of the other partner’s personal and living expenses.
Evidence in Palimony Claims
The major difficulty for a family attorney in most palimony cases is proving the existence of an agreement or contract of one former partner to support the other. Unfortunately, most agreements or promises between unmarried partners are oral rather than in writing.
As a result, a family law lawyer often has difficulty producing evidence that one partner promised or agreed to support the other if they separated. All contracts require proof of “consideration,” or something of value that one promises and provides to another, usually in exchange for the other person providing something of value, as well. Proving the existence of an oral agreement requires some evidence of actions that one partner took in reliance on that agreement, which can be challenging. Furthermore, some services, such as providing sexual services, do not constitute legal forms of consideration.
In many cases, the case boils down to “he said, she said,” which requires the court to determine which former partner is a more credible witness. Additionally, because palimony claims take place in civil court, the former partner seeking palimony has the burden of proving the existence of a contract by clear and convincing evidence. Meeting this high standard can be difficult if there are no independent witnesses or documentary evidence of the parties’ alleged agreement of support.
Deirdre Kingsbury and Noreen Evans are experienced family attorneys who will represent your interests in filing or defending against palimony suits or other types of family law matters. At Evans Kingsbury, LLP, we have the skills necessary to handle the most complex family law issues on your behalf while you focus on your family. Call our family law lawyers today at (707) 596-6090 or contact us online and schedule a time to talk to us about your legal matter.