You don’t have to be married to get a divorce.
Unmarried partners who lived together over an extended period of time may be entitled to the same rights when it comes to separation; matters of finance, child custody, and property to settle.
It’s called a Marvin Action.
A Marvin Action is an action for a breach of contract (be it written, oral, or implied by conduct) between a non-married, cohabiting couple. And the term often brought up during this process isn’t alimony, but palimony – the legal division of property and financial assets when two live-in partners terminate their relationship.
Marvin Action claims might sound like a once-in-a-blue-moon phenomenon, but they aren’t as infrequent as you might think. Over the years, we’ve seen high-profile palimony cases and have compiled the top 5 most famous cases to illustrate.
5. Judy Nelson v. Martina Navratilova
Former Czechoslovakia turned U.S. tennis champ, Martina Navratilova, met Judy Nelson in 1982. The two went on to have a committed relationship and signed a written agreement that included palimony provisions in a lawyer’s office. In 1991, they went their separate ways, with Nelson asking for $7.5 million as per their agreement. Nelson and Navratilova settled out of court. The amount of the settlement was never publicly disclosed.
4. Marilyn Barnett v. Billie Jean King
World-renowned tennis player Billie Jean King was sued in 1981 by her former partner, Marilyn Barnett. Barnett submitted a series of letters sent from King, as evidence of King’s commitment to the 10-year relationship. The Court did not decide in Barnett’s favor, but the case reportedly caused King to lose $2 million in endorsements.
3. Sondra Locke v. Clint Eastwood
Having lived together for 14 years and worked on six films, Sondra Locke and Clint Eastwood ended their partnership in 1989. Eastwood ultimately asked Locke to leave their shared home, and Locke responded by filing a palimony suit. In an equally dramatic turn of events, the estranged couple reached an out of court agreement before her claim could be decided by the Court.
2. Peter Frampton v. Penelope J. “Penny” McCall
Rock musician Peter Frampton split from his five-year partner, Penny McCall in 1976. McCall asserted she had forfeited her job as a promoter to further support Frampton’s career and sued for half of his earnings. The judge, however, found that the pair hadn’t presented themselves to the public as a ‘couple’ and, on that basis, dismissed McCall’s case.
1. Michelle Triola Marvin v. Lee Marvin
This is the case that started it all. Former actress and singer, Michelle Triola Marvin, sued actor Lee Marvin for the first-ever Marvin Action claim in 1971 – hence the namesake “Marvin Cases” referenced today. While no written contract was signed during their six-year relationship, Triola maintained that Marvin had breached his promise to provide for her for the rest of her life. She submitted a series of letters as evidence and was initially awarded $104,000. In 1981, however, the Supreme Court of California rescinded her award, citing a lack of contract.
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