What Factors are Involved When Determining Palimony?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 January 2020
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Palimony is a form of financial settlement similar to alimony, but for partners who have not married. Cohabiting for a long period of time may qualify partners for palimony if assets, incomes, and financial responsibilities have become co-mingled. Same-sex couples and heterosexual couples that choose not to marry may be able to file for palimony if they feel that their assets and responsibilities are being unfairly divided following a break up of the relationship. The factors that determine palimony are similar, and often identical, to those that determine alimony in a divorce.

One important factor that helps determine palimony is length of the relationship. This factor usually includes only the time spent living together, leaving out any period during which a couple was dating but not cohabiting. Generally, going to court for a relationship that has lasted only a few months is neither necessary nor desirable. Long-standing relationships in which the partners set up a household together, by contrast, provide many opportunities for financial agreements, support systems, and co-mingling of finances to occur.


The existence of oral or written agreements as to financial arrangements may be important in determining palimony. Some couples who plan to be together permanently but not marry may simplify matters by creating a palimony agreement that functions similarly to a prenuptial agreement by laying out the terms of financial division in case of a later split. These agreements can be notarized or drawn up by a lawyer to ensure that they are binding in court, should one partner later change his or her mind. Oral agreements are difficult to prove, but can also sometimes be used in court if both parties admit to the existence of the agreement.

Couples who live together, married or not, often make career and income sacrifices to assist each other in personal goals. If one partner agrees to stay home with the kids so the other can work full-time, or if one goes to school while the other works to support the household, the sacrificing partner may have grounds to claim palimony. Just as in a divorce, if one partner can demonstrate that he or she gave up significant opportunities for income or career development for the other partner, a judge may determine that he or she is deserving of financial support. This may include a monthly income, repayment for specific debts, or even a portion of earnings, stock, or profits, from a former partner's business.

If two partners have widely differing incomes, yet have co-mingled finances to create an even living arrangement, this may be considered in a palimony judgment. How this factor affects judicial rulings may vary based on the couple; in some cases it may be ruled that the higher-earning partner needs to maintain the standard of living set in the relationship, while in others it may mean that the higher-earning partner gets to keep a greater part of the assets and property since he or she primarily funded the relationship. Other factors, such as those mentioned above, can determine how income disparity is managed in palimony cases.


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