A so-called Marvin Action is a lawsuit in civil court based upon agreements
and obligations that arose in connection with a couple living together
over a number of years. They are sometimes erroneously thought of as a
common law marriage, which were outlawed in California in 1895. They apply
to both opposite and same sex couples.
Marvin Actions stem from a 1976 California court ruling that the former
live- in girlfriend of actor Lee Marvin was entitled to community property
rights. To determine whether you have a good Marvin Action claim, the
following factors are important to consider:
How long have you and your partner lived together? The longer you cohabitated,
the more likely you will have developed a "confidential" and
"fiduciary" relationship to each other, placing a duty upon
each of you to look out for each other's best interest. It is also
more likely the other factors below will come into play.
Do you and your partner have any children together? This tends to lend
itself to a more interdependent relationship between the parties. In addition,
it is not uncommon for the children to believe their parents are married.
Has one of you given up your employment or career for the mutual benefit
of your former partner and yourself? For example, have you given up your
job to take care of your mutual children or to run the household so the
other partner can focus on work?
Working for no or decreased compensation at a joint business? Did you agree
to work at a shared business, or a business in your partner's name
for a deflated income or no income? One partner may do this for the benefit
of the couple, such as to increase the value of the business, maximize
tax benefits, and/or because at the end of the day, the parties shared
their paycheck anyway, so it would not matter under whose name the paycheck
Is there written evidence of an agreement? Is there correspondence (letter,
emails, cards, etc.) between you and your former partner, indicating an
agreement to share property and/or provide for each other's support?
Do you hold yourselves out to the public as being married or as registered
domestic partners? For example, would witnesses testify that you or your
former partner told them that the two of your were married? What does
your former partner's Facebook or Myspace page indicate?
Have you commingled your property or debts? This tends to show that you
have agreed to pool your income and resources. Do you share title to any
real estate or businesses; do you have joint bank accounts, credit cards
or retirement accounts; do you share health, dental or other types of
Documentation showing marital status. Have you or your former partner filled
out any forms indicating that either of you were married to the other?
This may be done expressly by stating you were married, or implicitly
by sharing the same last name with your partner. Check the following documents:
employment applications, bank applications, medical emergency notification
forms, insurance documents, bank documents, grant deeds, wills, trust
instruments, tax returns, your children's birth certificates, letters
and emails to or from friends and acquaintances.
This is a list of the more common areas of evidence that help establish
an agreement to share property or provide for one another's support.
However, this is by no means an all inclusive list. Each case is unique,
and one must look at all the facts and evidence to determine the strength
of a claim and the best way to present the evidence in court.