Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Palimony Definition:

A judicial award of spousal support or compensation for services, money, and goods contributed during a longterm nonmarital relationship.

Providing spousal support to a spouse economically disadvantaged in the result of separation has always been a challenge in common law. One response, historically, had been to develop a doctrine of common law marriage. Another, Canadian especially, was to develop the doctrine of unjust enrichment.

Common law marriage requires consent to live as husband and wide: a contract, albeit verbal or implied.

To manage cases where no common law marriage could be found, the courts in California started a doctrine of palimony. In one high-profile case, the Supreme Court of California awarded future support to a non-marital partner in the absence of an express contract. The Supreme Court of California justified its decision in Marvin as follows:

"[T]he mores of the society have indeed changed so radically in regard to cohabitation that we cannot impose a standard based on alleged moral considerations that have apparently been so widely abandoned by so many."

In Norton, Justice Torruella wrote:

"The term palimony originated out of the media coverage of the California case Marvin v Marvin.

"Palimony is a court's award of post-relationship support or compensation for services, money, and goods contributed during a longterm nonmarital relationship, especially where a common-law marriage cannot be established."

The doctrine of palimony is less relevant in contemporary law as many jurisdictions have amended their statutes to accommodate spousal support claims subsequent to common law relationships.

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