The obligation to pay alimony is an unenviable duty that one spouse may have to satisfy after getting a divorce. However, modern society recognizes that marriage is not the only way two individuals can have an intimate relationship. If this is true, do the post-separation rights that spouses can exercise after a divorce apply to people who are in non-traditional marital-like relationships? In many jurisdictions, the answer is yes – especially when it comes to a concept known as “palimony.” However, what is “palimony” and how does it relate to alimony or spousal support.
What Is Alimony?
“Alimony” has been defined as “allowance to a wife from a husband’s estate, or in certain cases of separation.” The term is derived from the Latin word alimonia, which means “nourishment.” In family law, alimony is synonymous from the more gender-neutral term “spousal support” or “spousal maintenance.” Spousal support refers to the payment or payments of money to another spouse to make sure they are not without financial assistance as they transition from married life to post-married life.
Spousal support is designed to cover living expenses for spouses who cannot yet provide for themselves. Sometimes spousal support orders are temporary in that payments terminate upon the occurrence of some condition, such as the passage of time or the happening of an event.
In California, spousal support obligations after divorce come from an implicit legal duty of support between spouses. This duty of support is a mutual obligation that the law imposes on both spouses without regard to their gender.
What Is “Palimony?”
The duty to pay alimony or spousal support is derivative of the marital relationship. As a result, the right to receive spousal support is contingent on the prior existence of a marital relationship between the person who is obligated to provide spousal support and the person who receives it. Therefore, a couple who was never legally married but lived together and raised children together is not entitled to receive alimony from each other based on the marital duty of support.
However, basic notions of fairness have led to the idea of “palimony.” Palimony is not an official legal term – unlike the word alimony – but is rather an unofficial portmanteau that arises from the combination of “pal” and alimony. California courts recognize that certain marriage-like relationships that involved an intimate relationship between two individuals could give rise to a duty to support one another after the separate.
Some theories regarding palimony argue that the source of the implicit duty behind palimony comes from contract law. Under contract law, courts will sometimes recognize that an implicit contractual relationship exists between parties based on how they act. For example, imagine that someone sits down at a bar and never says a word to the bartender. However, the bartender pours this person a drink, which they drink immediately. Although neither the customer nor the bar explicitly entered into an agreement for bar service, a court would recognize that the patron has a legal obligation to pay for the drink they consumed that was implied through their actions and bar custom. Similarly, courts sometimes recognize that a duty to provide financial support between separated unmarried cohabitants was implied from their conduct.
Contact the Law & Mediation Firm of Klueck & Hoppes, APC
If you are getting out of a serious relationship where you shared what would otherwise be considered to be a marriage with your former significant other, you should consult an experienced attorney about the possible legal rights and duties that could arise from such a relationship. You and your former partner may have a shared interest to certain property similar to how married spoused have an interest in marital property. To determine the nature and extent of those rights, you should consult one of our experienced attorneys from the Law & Mediation Firm of Klueck & Hoppes, APC.
To learn about your rights and obligations after ending a serious relationship, call us at (619) 577-4900 or contact us online today.