Palimony is a legal concept that pertains to the financial support or maintenance provided by one unmarried partner to another following the dissolution of their long-term cohabiting relationship. This complex and often contentious area of law raises numerous legal questions, including what palimony is, how it differs from alimony, the legal requirements, notable cases, and potential challenges associated with palimony claims.

Definition of Palimony:

Palimony is a portmanteau of “pal” and “alimony,” and it refers to financial support or maintenance that one partner may be required to provide to another partner following the end of their long-term, non-marital cohabiting relationship. Palimony claims typically arise when unmarried couples separate, and one partner seeks financial support from the other based on the assertion that they made sacrifices or contributions during the relationship that warrant financial compensation.

Distinction Between Palimony and Alimony:

Palimony and alimony are similar in that they both involve financial support from one party to another after a relationship ends. However, they differ in key ways:

Marital Status: Alimony is typically awarded in the context of a divorce or legal separation between married spouses, while palimony pertains to unmarried cohabiting couples.

Legal Recognition: Alimony is legally recognized and regulated in most jurisdictions as a remedy for the financial disparities that may arise from the dissolution of a marriage. Palimony, on the other hand, lacks consistent legal recognition and regulation, making it a more complex and challenging area of law.

Legal Requirements for Palimony:

The legal requirements for palimony claims can vary significantly based on the jurisdiction and the specific circumstances of the relationship. However, several common elements are often considered:

Oral or Implied Agreement: Palimony claims frequently rely on the existence of an oral or implied agreement between the partners regarding financial support or shared expenses during the relationship.

Economic Contribution: The partner seeking palimony must typically demonstrate that they made significant economic or non-economic contributions to the relationship, such as contributing to household expenses, supporting the other partner’s career, or making career sacrifices for the benefit of the relationship.

Expectation of Support: There should be a reasonable expectation of continued financial support or maintenance even after the relationship ends.

Statute of Frauds: In some jurisdictions, palimony claims may be subject to the statute of frauds, which requires certain types of agreements, including those related to support, to be in writing to be enforceable.

Notable Palimony Cases:

Several high-profile palimony cases have garnered media attention and contributed to the ongoing debate over the legal recognition of palimony claims:

Marvin v. Marvin (1976): Perhaps the most famous palimony case, actor Lee Marvin was sued by his former live-in girlfriend, Michelle Triola Marvin, for financial support after their relationship ended. The California Supreme Court ruled that unmarried partners could potentially enforce oral agreements for support if certain conditions were met.

Hawke v. Keane (2003): In this case, musician James Keane was sued for palimony by his former live-in partner, Fiona Hawke. The New York Court of Appeals held that Hawke was not entitled to palimony because there was no written agreement, and New York did not recognize palimony claims based on oral agreements.

Palladino v. Palladino (2014): In New Jersey, the Superior Court held that a written cohabitation agreement specifying financial support could be enforceable, supporting the idea that palimony claims may require written agreements in some jurisdictions.

Challenges Associated with Palimony Claims:

Palimony claims are not without their challenges and complexities:

Legal Recognition: The primary challenge is the lack of consistent legal recognition and regulation of palimony across jurisdictions, making it difficult to predict the outcome of a palimony claim.

Burden of Proof: The partner seeking palimony typically bears the burden of proving the existence of an agreement and demonstrating their contributions and expectations.

Statute of Frauds: In jurisdictions where the statute of fraud applies to palimony claims, the absence of a written agreement can be a significant hurdle.

Changing Laws: The legal landscape regarding palimony is subject to change, as some states may amend their laws to clarify or restrict palimony claims.


Palimony is a complex and evolving legal concept that pertains to financial support claims made by one unmarried partner against another after the dissolution of a long-term cohabiting relationship. While some high-profile cases have shed light on the potential enforceability of palimony claims, there is no consistent legal framework governing palimony across jurisdictions. Partners contemplating cohabitation or those facing palimony claims should seek legal counsel to understand the specific laws and requirements that may apply in their jurisdiction.

Additionally, documenting financial agreements in writing can provide clarity and potentially strengthen the enforceability of such agreements in the event of a separation. As laws and attitudes regarding palimony continue to evolve, legal guidance is crucial for individuals navigating this complex area of family law.

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For more family law terms visit our glossary page.

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