While California does not recognize common law marriage, the state does allow unmarried partners to seek financial support or property sharing with a Marvin action. The so-called Marvin doctrine stems from a 1976 state Supreme Court decision that requires courts to treat financial and business transactions within intimate relationships the same as they would those outside intimate relationships.
If you have considered ending a long-term relationship with a live-in partner, learn more about how a Marvin claim may affect your next steps.
The doctrine applies to both same-gender and opposite-gender relationships. The court looks at whether you and your partner had either a spoken or written agreement to financially support one another. This could be an implied agreement; for example, one person may care for the home and children while the other maintains full-time employment.
However, an implied agreement cannot rely solely on the couple’s intimate relationship. In addition, the Marvin doctrine does not apply to personal relationships when the couple did not live together or share a household.
Filing a Marvin action
Unlike spousal property division which takes place in family court, you must file a Marvin claim in civil court. To successfully receive financial support from a former partner, your evidence must reflect the existence of an agreement during your cohabitation. Shared bank accounts and joint ownership of property or real estate could potentially show that you had an agreement to support one another financially, for example.
Understanding your rights under the Marvin doctrine in California can help you protect your financial interests if a long-term live-in relationship ends.