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What is Palimony?

Many people believe alimony is what the husband pays to the wife when divorce happens and palimony is what is paid to the husband should the wife’s personal assets exceed his.

But the legal definition of palimony is actually the support paid from one member of an unmarried couple to the other.

Many couples these days live together without actually becoming legally married. In fact, according to an article in the Journal of Marriage and Family, the number of romantic cohabitations is on the rise. However, the issue in whether palimony is owed when the relationship ends depends on whether or not there was an agreement about the roles each partner would play in the relationship.

For example, if there is an expectiation within the relationship that one person works full time and the other abandons his or her career to stay home and care for children or animals, or to perform other domestic duties, then there may be a cause for palimony payments. Palimony may be owed if it was understood that the employed partner would financially support the partner who stayed home. There may also be cause for palimony payments if one person supported the other’s business for the duration of a lengthy relationship.

An example of this may be if one person is independently wealthy and they have children. The person who did not bring any personal wealth into the relationship may have a claim to some of the money if they abandoned their career or schooling with the express intent and agreement that they would care for the children. In determining whether palimony is relevant, courts look at each couple on a case-by-case basis.

While written palimony contracts are not common, they are usually a good idea, especially if one member has considerable assets and if children are involved. Palimony can be avoided if a contract that clearly states the terms of the relationship is created before or during non-marital cohabitation.

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