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21 Nov. 2013

Can Sex During a Relationship Be Used to Prove Community Property Rights?

Posted By The Buncher Law Corporation

Young Couple Sitting on Love Seat

Often the question is raised whether sexual services can be part of a so-called Marvin Action, a lawsuit in civil court based upon agreements and obligations that arose in connection with a unmarried couple living together over a number of years.

A Marvin Action - named for the landmark 1976 California court decision that awarded community property rights to the former live-in girlfriend of actor Lee Marvin — is based on an express or implied contract to provide support or share property

In any contract, there must be lawful "consideration," meaning the parties promise to exchange things of value. If only one party is providing something of value, then it is not a contract - it is, legally speaking, a gift.

If a Marvin Action is based entirely upon sexual services, it is not enforceable because it would be considered an illegal agreement for prostitution.

However, the existence of a sexual relationship will not, by itself, invalidate a Marvin agreement. As the court stated in Marvin v. Marvin (1976) 18 Cal.3d 660, 672, even "if sexual services are part of the contractual consideration, any severable portion of the contract supported by independent consideration will still be enforced.” (See also Whorton v. Dillingham (1988) 202 Cal.App.3d 447.)

Sex, the court ruled in Marvin, is only one of many forms of consideration provided in a relationship. Acting a homemaker, working at your partner's business without compensation, acting as a driver, social planner, trip scheduler - these and many more are forms of consideration that will validate the contract unmarried couples agree to when they live together for a number of years.

Thus, the facts and circumstances of each case must be examined closely to determine if a valid Marvin type agreement exists.

Categories: Marvin Action
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