Nonmarital Cohabitation Disputes


California does not have a common law marriage statute. No matter how long a couple lives together is a marriage like relationship, they remain single and do not acquire community property of Family Code support rights. These cohabitants do however have rights and responsibilities based upon their words and actions.


Nonmarital partners can state claims for breach of contract, either express or implied, covering any number of issues such as promise of support, pooling of assets, partnership or joint venture etc. Nonmarital cohabitants may also have grounds to seek equitable remedies in the form of constructive or resulting trusts, declaratory relief and specific performance.


Many of these rights and remedies were commented upon by the California Supreme Court in the case of Marvin v. Marvin (1976) 18 C3d 660. The court required that the consideration for the promise of support etc would not rest solely on the rendition of sexual services. Cohabitation, while not necessary (see Cochran v. Cochran (1997) 56 CA4th 1115) seems to form the basis for the rendition of “domestic services” which are valid consideration to support a promise. Bergen v. Wood (1993) 14 CA4th 854.


The management of claims of nonmarried couples is complex and should be reviewed with an attorney familiar with this area of the law.

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