What is Marvin Law and how Does it Affect LGBT Families?

As many LGBT couples know, getting married is not the only way to define a committed relationship. But for unmarried couples, do you still have rights with regards to the division of property, assets, and liabilities when a long-term relationship ends? In many cases, yes. In California, you may be able to utilize Marvin Law to settle these matters.

What is Marvin  Law?

California is a community property state. This means that unless indicated otherwise in a prenuptial agreement, when a couple gets married, all assets and liabilities acquired during the marriage are split equally between the two parties in the “community.” Though community property laws don’t apply to unmarried couples, you still may have several options.

Generally speaking, Marvin cases involve couples that co-habited (lived together), where one person was financially dependent on the other. This may mean that one person gave up a career to support the other by being a homemaker, for example.

Marvin Law is based on a 1976 case involving a couple that lived together for seven years. One partner had given up her career in order to support the other. She argued that although they did not have a written contract, they had orally agreed to split incoming assets. She explained that even though they were not married, she should still have some protection under the law.

The case made it’s way to the California Supreme Court, which found that “The fact that a man and woman live together without marriage, and engage in a sexual relationship, does not in itself invalidate agreements between them relating to their earnings, property, or expenses.”

This was a significant decision, as it was the first time that “implied” contracts were enforced between non-marital cohabitants. Rather than being settled in family court, as divorce cases are, Marvin cases are settled in civil court.

Despite the language used in the court’s decision, Marvin Law also applies to non-heterosexual relationships. The LGBT community was greatly impacted by this decision, as community property laws could not be applied to their relationships until many years later when gay marriage was legalized.

Can Marvin  Law be used in my case?

Marvin Law only applies to non-married couples or to married couples that are aiming to settle disputes that occurred during a period when they were not married. The application is more nuanced for those in domestic partnerships. Contact us for more details.

It is generally used when the division of assets and liabilities is in question, or when one partner seeks financial support from the other. It may be particularly useful when there is no written contract.

You’ll need to demonstrate that you were in a committed relationship, and provide as much evidence as possible that you had an agreement on the division of assets and liabilities, even if it was not written.

Marvin Law is used primarily in the state of California, though many other states have also cited it.

Do I need a co-habitation agreement?

For couples entering into a unmarried co-habitation scenario, we recommend creating a co-habitation agreement spelling out key legal details such as the division of current and future assets and liabilities, how medical decisions are made, whether wills will be created, and so forth.

This will help set your relationship up for success, and prevent misunderstandings down the road.

If you do not have a co-habitation agreement and are separating from your partner, you can still pursue a Marvin claim.

The end of any relationship is a difficult time to go through. For those seeking to remedy inequities in financial and other assets, it can be particularly straining. Our experienced attorneys are experts in Marvin Law and will guide you through this period to lighten your burden. Contact us to learn more.

Photo by Fleur Brebels on Unsplash