What’s “palimony?”

Sharman L. Brooks

Everyone is familiar with the concept of alimony, which is paid in certain states like California when married couples divorce and one party is required to pay the other for an imbalance of financial stability following a divorce. Alimony is ordered in a variety of situations, but traditionally it has always been associated with couples who have been legally married. In contemporary society, “palimony” is also allowed in some states such as California where community property laws are recognized by state courts.

Understanding palimony

Palimony was first introduced as a family law concept in the late 1800s, but the phenomena of palimony lawsuits was reinvigorated in California during the 1960s. The lawsuits are based on the traditional concept of the nuclear family where the husband goes to work as the primary breadwinner for the family while the wife stays at home and does the domestic work necessary to run a home. Many women sacrificed careers for this to happen, most often with no written agreement in addition to the absence of a marriage license. Today this extends to same-sex couples.

Impact on modern society

The days of traditional marriage have long since gone, but the palimony issue still has yet to be codified. Instead in contemporary society where so many couples live together for years without being married, the palimony lawsuit filings have become a more common family law occurrence. This is especially true when partners have provably lived together for an extended period of time.

The real problem with this legal matter is there is no actual recognition of common law marriage in California. This means each case is decided based on detailed information regarding the living arrangement and the amount of financial sacrifice one partner has made during the cohabitation term. It can take aggressive legal representation for a successful outcome.

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