Palimony divides real property and assets between unmarried, cohabitating partners who have shared financial interests. Couples who live together for long periods of time but never get married still form close bonds and financial ties. In many cases, domestic partners behave just like married couples, with the same commitments. When a long-term, live-in relationship ends, each partner often goes through the same emotional and financial troubles as with a divorce.

What is Palimony?

Palimony is similar to alimony in that one member of a separating couple pays support payments to the former partner. The term became popular when actor Lee Marvin separated from his long-time partner, Michelle Triola, in 1977. Famed attorney, Marvin Mitchelson, Triola’s lawyer, came up with the term when Triola filed an unsuccessful lawsuit against Marvin. It is a combination of the word “pal” with the word “alimony.” Ms. Triola claimed that she had given up her career to care for Mr. Marvin. Thus, she felt she deserved support payments so she could carry on with her life in the same style. She also said that there was a verbal agreement that Marvin would take care of her financially. Although she was awarded over $100,000, the case was later appealed, overturning the judgment.

Cohabitation is currently a popular lifestyle alternative to traditional, legal marriage. It is wise for both parties in the relationship to sign a formal cohabitation agreement before moving in together. The paperwork should clearly explain the financial responsibilities of both parties when the relationship ends. Like prenups, most people don’t like to sign cohabitation agreements. People in love tend to think of them as pessimistic. But judges are less likely to award support payments if the living arrangement does not involve a legal framework.

How is Palimony Different from Alimony?

Palimony differs from alimony in that palimony is only recognized in a few states. The court considers alimony as spousal support and division of property between a married couple, either during marriage separation or divorce. There could be no alimony if there were no marriage. All 50 states have provisions to award alimony. Different types of spousal support include permanent, temporary, and duration (lasts as many years as the marriage lasted) alimony, to name a few.

Judges typically award alimony as a monthly support payment. A judge will usually award palimony as a one-time lump sum.

The majority of states don’t recognize or have laws in place for support payments between unmarried couples. Cohabitation laws vary from state to state. Living together under specific circumstances results in what is known as “common law marriage.” Only a small percentage of states recognize such marriages.

What States Allow Palimony Requests?

Generally, most states will hear palimony cases if the relationship was a common law marriage established in a state where common law marriages are recognized. Except in Iowa, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia, same-sex couples do not qualify for common law marriages.  The states that have common law marriage are:

  • Alabama
  • Colorado
  • District of Columbia
  • Georgia (if formed before 1/1/1997)
  • Idaho (if formed before 1/1/1996)
  • Iowa
  • Kansas (If both partners are over 18)
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire (recognized only after the death of a partner)
  • Ohio (if formed before 10/10/1991)
  • Oklahoma (if formed before 11/1/1998)
  • Pennsylvania (if formed on or before 1/1/2005)
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Texas (with specific rules)
  • Utah (with specific rules)

What are the Conditions for Receiving or Giving Palimony?

There are no set-in-stone rules for palimony support. However, each state that recognizes common law marriage has its specific guidelines. Contrary to common belief, a man and woman who live together for 7 years or more are not automatically in a common law marriage.

A couple that lives together for a long period (several years) and presents themselves to the community as a “married couple” will likely be regarded as being in a common law marriage. Of course, this only applies to the states mentioned above that recognize common law marriage.

Considerations in a palimony case would likely include if the couple:

  • Shared a dwelling
  • If the woman uses the man’s last name
  • Signed contracts or made large purchases together (ex.car or home)
  • Filed joint tax returns
  • Had a shared bank account
  • Call each other as husband and wife
  • Shared expenses
  • Raised children together

Palimony in the State of Florida

Florida is not a state that recognizes common law marriage. The courts in Florida do not regularly hear palimony cases or award palimony in the event of a terminated cohabitation. However, if the common law marriage was formed in a state where it is legal, the palimony case may be heard in a Florida court.

If you need to learn more about palimony in Florida, contact the Lewert Law, L.L.C. family law attorney Tina L. Lewert is board certified in marital and family lawyer who can guide you through the upheaval that comes with the end of a long-term relationship. Call today for a private, free consultation at 561-220-0123.