Many people believe that simply because they are not legally married, that they have no financial exposure to their romantic partners or cohabitants because California is not a “common law” state. However, this is patently incorrect.

While California does not have “common law” marriage like other states, it does have the doctrine of “palimony”. A palimony claim is actually a contract claim which is handled by the Civil Litigation Department of the Superior Court rather than the Family Law department. This means that such claims are typically decided by a jury rather than a judge.

The underlying theory is that two adults can form a contract with one another which creates financial obligations (similar to marriage.) Such a contract can be formed in writing, but can also be formed orally and/or based upon the parties’ conduct (known as an implied in fact contract).

As a matter of precaution, it is often sensible for two adults who are not legally married and who not wish to legally marry to enter into what is known as a “cohabitation” agreement or “non-marital relationship agreement” with one another. Doing so will allow them to properly and comprehensively document what they are agreeable to and to waive anything to which they are not agreeable.

This area of the law is extremely complex and the Law Offices of Matthew Smurda will guide its clients through any and all challenges that pertain to any palimony matters.