Palimony, while not a new area of the law, became the subject of a recent hot-button issue in the media after NBA star Blake Griffin’s long-time girlfriend, and mother of his children, Brynn Cameron, announced she was suing him for palimony. She claims that Griffin, having supposedly entered a new relationship with model Kendall Jenner, must now support her for life financially.
And while the media was quick to break the story, it left a lot of people scratching their heads wondering what palimony is all about.
Let’s start with the definition of Marvin Actions. Marvin Actions are civil court actions filed by individuals who have been cohabitating with a partner but never married. The name originates from the 1976 case, Marvin v. Marvin, which involved a woman seeking support payments (or “palimony”) and half of the property acquired during her relationship with a live-in partner, actor Lee Marvin, after their separation. The claim for support in such cases is known as “palimony,” derivative of the word “alimony.”
In a palimony/Marvin claim a partner of a non-marital/cohabitation relationship sues for their right to monetary support. The success of this claim hinges on an expressed or implied contract that the parties agreed that he or she would be entitled to financial support in the event the relationship ended. Proof of such an agreement would be direct evidence that one partner had the intent to support/provide for the other partner for the rest of their life. For example, such an agreement can be demonstrated in letters, emails, or a contract.
Palimony cases are rare and seldom talked about for a number of reasons, the most common being that they are typically hard to prove and therefore hard to win. The success of the claim also can be dependent on the amount of time the couple lived together, whether or not they had shared bank accounts, or if one spouse financially supported the other for a prolonged period during the relationship, therefore showing intent to “take care of” the other spouse.
“These kinds of cases are driven by individual specific facts. Every situation is unique. None are black and white, therefore, proving palimony claims can be very complicated,” says The Buncher Law Corporation partner Lauren Mullee.