Such cohabitation based claims are often called “Marvin Actions”, because the leading case defining the rights and duties of nonmarital cohabitating partners is Marvin v. Marvin (1976) 18 Cal. 3d 660, 681.]
Marvin Actions of often necessary, because California abolished Common Law Marriage in 1895. A common law marriage occurs where a man and woman cohabitate for seven or so years, and meet other requirements mandated by the particular state as being necessary to be treated as though they were married, even though they never obtained a marriage license.
A Marvin Action is one based on an express contact (explicitly agreed upon verbally or in writing), or based on an implied contract (an agreement implied by the parties conduct), or on quasi contractual grounds. For instance, the court may enforce an implied or express agreement between parties to pool their respective resources and to share in all fruits for their labor for their mutual benefit. This is often referred to as a “pooling agreement.” The end result, is that a claimant cohabitant may end up having rights similar to those of spousal support and equal division of community property as held by a former spouse in a divorce proceeding. Other theories of recovery include an implied or express agreement to hold property jointly, to form a partnership or joint venture. Further civil grounds for recovery may include an action in “quantum meruit” for the reasonable value of services rendered, or an action seeking to impose a constructive trust, resulting trust, or an equitable lien to provide relief from the abuse of a confidential or fiduciary relationship.
Thus, even if you were never married, through skilled and creative lawyering, a cohabitant may be found to have certain rights similar to those held by a spouse following a divorce.
What if I Had A Valid Common Law Marriage In Another State? Although California abolished common law marriage, it will recognize a common law marriage entered into in another state, if it would be valid under the laws of the jurisdiction where it was contracted [Family Code §308]
What If I Had A Good Faith Belief I Was Married? Without the need for a Marvin Action in civil court, you may have enforceable rights in family law court. In particular, in some instances you may be treated as a “putative spouse” where you held an objectively good faith belief that you were validly married, even though due to some technicality or fraud, there was a voidable or an invalid marriage. As a putative spouse, you may have property rights that are enforceable as against your former cohabitant/partner, that are similar to those held by a former spouse going through a divorce. Such actions are handled in the family law court.
Mixed Marvin Action and Marital Dissolution Claims: Parties that cohabitated with one another prior to getting married and then divorced, may have both Marvin Action type claims that must be filed in civil court, and family law claims based in dissolution of marriage, that must be filed in family law court. One type of claim does not preclude the other. Thus, to fully defend or prosecute your rights in such instances, you need counsel experienced in litigating in both civil and family law courts.
Clearly, the laws on cohabitation are complex. In order to obtain complete representation in such matters, you need a family law attorney that is well practiced in both civil and family law court. The family law attorneys at The Buncher Law Corporation practice extensively in both the family law and civil courts, and have handled several cohabitation and Marvin Action cases.
Contact the divorce attorneys at The Buncher Law Corporation at (949) 398-8720 today to schedule a consultation.
We serve clients throughout Orange County, North San Diego County, Riverside County and Los Angeles County.