Palimony is financial support similar to alimony when an unmarried couple separates after living together. Palimony isn’t a legal term, but some states allow alimony for non-married couples who meet certain requirements. In Texas, people who were not legally married can only claim spousal support in limited circumstances.
What Is Palimony?
Palimony refers to financial support or maintenance provided by one unmarried partner to another after the end of their romantic relationship, akin to alimony in divorces. This support may cover living expenses, housing, or other financial needs.
The term gained prominence in the 1970s when a California court awarded support to a woman who had lived with her partner, actor Lee Marvin, without being married. The ruling recognized that unmarried partners could have financial rights similar to those in marriage. Palimony has since become a contentious legal issue, with varying recognition and enforcement across different jurisdictions.
Does Texas Have Palimony?
In Texas, the legal system primarily focuses on the rights and obligations of married couples through divorce proceedings. The state’s community property laws govern the division of assets and liabilities acquired during the marriage upon divorce. However, these laws do not extend to unmarried couples.
To qualify for alimony, couples must have had a legal or common-law marriage.
Texas Family Code § 8.061 states that “unmarried cohabitants” are not eligible for maintenance, also known as alimony or spousal support. However, there is an exception allowing palimony in some cases after a marriage is annulled.
Annulment is a process where the court finds a marriage was never legally valid, meaning the couple was never married. This means that spousal support would be palimony. A partner in a marriage that was annulled, called a putative spouse, is eligible for alimony if he/she:
- Mistakenly believed the marriage was valid.
- Meets the criteria for alimony.
Common Law Marriage and Alimony
Common law marriage refers to a legal relationship in which a couple lives together as spouses and presents themselves to others as married without obtaining a formal marriage license or ceremony. In Texas, common law marriage is recognized as valid and legally binding if certain requirements are met.
Here are the key elements for establishing a common-law marriage in Texas.
Agreement to be Married
Both parties must agree to be married and must have the present intent to enter into a marital relationship. This intent to be married must be expressed by both partners.
Living Together as Spouses
The couple must live together in Texas as spouses. Cohabitation is a crucial aspect of common law marriage, and the couple must reside together in a manner consistent with a marital relationship.
Holding Out as Married
The couple must hold themselves out to others as being married. This can include using the same last name, referring to each other as spouses, and filing joint tax returns. The intention to present themselves as married must be clear and consistent.
If these requirements are met, the couple is considered legally married in Texas, and they have the same rights and responsibilities as couples who obtained a formal marriage license and ceremony. This includes property rights, inheritance rights, spousal support, and the ability to file joint tax returns.
Cohabitation Agreements and Palimony
Cohabitation agreements in Texas are legal documents designed to establish the rights and responsibilities of unmarried couples who live together. Cohabitation agreements in Texas are legally binding contracts, provided they meet certain requirements, such as being voluntarily entered into by both parties with full disclosure of assets and obligations.
In Texas, cohabitation agreements can cover various topics, including property ownership, debt allocation, and the division of assets in the event of a breakup. They can also establish provisions for palimony.