Palimony

From Academic Kids

Palimony is a slang term referring to a court judgment for property or support in a lawsuit between unmarried cohabitants. The term, a portmanteau of pal (see interpersonal relationship) and alimony, was coined by attorney Marvin Mitchelson in 1977 when his client Michelle Marvin (the former Michelle Triola) filed an unsuccessful suit against actor Lee Marvin. Ms. Marvin claimed that the actor, who was still married at the time, had promised to support her for the rest of her life. In legal jargon, a palimony case is sometimes called a "Marvin" case.

The word "palimony" would seem to suggest some relationship to alimony. However, in most jurisdictions, palimony cases are civil suits, which means that they are not heard in family courts and are not subject to family law. Palimony developed as a branch of contract law and palimony claims usually allege that there was an oral or implied contract by which one party promised to support or share property with the other. Other theories on which a palimony suit can be based include promissory estoppel and quantum meruit.

Sometimes, unmarried cohabitants may wish to structure their legal relationship so as to closely resemble those of spouses in a marriage, yet not marry (because they do not want to or they are barred from marrying on the basis that they are the same gender). The result often looks like palimony, but the contract is express, not implied. Lawyers have coined the term "Marvinizing" to describe the process of drawing up the necessary contracts.

On the other hand, unmarried couples sometimes wish to avoid any possibility that one will sue the other based on a palimony theory. Such couples may enter into a cohabitation agreement specifying that their assets are separate and that neither one has an obligation to support the other.

Notable cases

  • Lee Marvin, as described above.
  • In 1982, famous pianist Liberace was sued for US$113,000,000 in palimony by his live-in boyfriend Scott Thorson (though Liberace denied being homosexual). Most of Thorson's claim was dismissed, but he did receive a settlement of US$95,000.

External links

  • jlaskin.com (http://www.jlaskin.com/): Attorney's site with articles and information about palimony and cohabitation agreements.
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