If you and your significant other live together in unwedded bliss, you may wish to consider what happens if and when your relationship ends. Do you have the same rights as a married person to receive property and spousal support from your partner? Not necessarily.
FindLaw explains that you would need to rely on California’s special law regarding the split-ups of unmarried couples in order to receive the things you seek.
Lee Marvin case
Dubbed the palimony law, this special law came about as the result of a very high-profile court battle between Lee Marvin, an exceptionally popular movie star of the 1970s, and his long-time live-in girlfriend Michelle Triola. When they ultimately split up, she went to court demanding half of his property and spousal support by any other name. She based her demands on an oral agreement she alleged that she and Marvin made whereby, in exchange for her abandoning her career to concentrate on his, he promised to give her 50% of his property, plus make support payments to her, in the event of a split-up. Marvin denied the existence of any such agreement.
After years of litigation, the case finally made its way to the California Supreme Court. Triola had won at the trial court and appellate court levels, but the Supreme Court overruled these decisions and found in favor of Marvin, leaving Triola to walk away empty handed.
The two main issues in the case consisted of 1) are oral agreements, i.e., contracts, enforceable; and 2) did such a contract exist in this particular case. The Supreme Court agreed with the appellate court that two consenting adults can make an enforceable oral contract, but found that these two people had not, in fact, made the oral agreement Triola alleged.