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Palimony: The Ultimate Bad Break-up

If you've ever been through a break-up, you probably know how difficult it is to get over a former boyfriend or girlfriend. The process can take anywhere from weeks, to months, or, in extreme cases, years. Recovering from a break-up is made difficult by the fact that you need to redefine yourself as a single person. Having been in a relationship, you may need to become comfortable again on the singles circuit or regain your ability to bond with another person. These are difficult problems to overcome, but you can do it.

At the very least, consider yourself lucky that your break-up probably does not include palimony.

To understand palimony, imagine breaking up with your boyfriend or girlfriend and then having to financially support him or her. This is what happens with palimony. The name itself is a play on the words pal and alimony. Alimony is what one spouse is typically required to pay to the other spouse in a divorce. It is a series of payments each month to help the supported spouse get "back on their feet."

But what if the two of you weren't married? That's where palimony comes in. Palimony acts as a kind of alimony for those who have been living together, but never legally married. In California, there is no common-law marriage, so the court will not consider the sheer fact of living together as evidence of an implied commitment by the person with a greater income to support the one with a lower income. Yet, if one person made a contractually enforceable promise to support the other even after a break-up, the court could order this person to follow-through on that promise. An oral promise or contract is very hard to prove in court however, and most of the time, the court will not order support payments if the couple has not been married.

Nonetheless, to avoid such a scenario-the ultimate bad break-up-think carefully before you move in with your significant other. Then, if you still want to, consider creating a written cohabitation agreement. Such an agreement will spell out the financial relationship between you and your partner and the expectations each of you have in the event the relationship ends. This agreement can help to ensure that if you ever break up, you will not be forced to financially support your ex.

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William A. Feinberg 1928 - 2001

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