Those of us over a certain age remember a time when the idea of living together in a romantic relationship without marrying was shocking to most people. In just a generation or two, people have largely come to accept committed cohabitation in our society. Some people even feel that it is a good trial run for marriage – or just are not interested in the institution of marriage. Problems can arise though when a marriage-like relationship ends.
A Florida couple may have lived as if married, but upon breaking up, the legal protections that apply to divorcing spouses are not there for ex-cohabitants.
No alimony for an unmarried ex-partner
Florida law and courts have been consistent in their rejection of alimony claims of unmarried partners – a concept called palimony. In Florida it does not matter how committed or marriage-like the relationship is. As one Florida case (Taylor v. Davis) put it, “Florida law is clear that legal rights and duties arise from marriage, not cohabitation or romance.”
Potential legal options for financial relief
A few scenarios may provide alternatives upon the end of a cohabitating relationship. Since 1968, Florida law has not recognized common-law marriage, so living together as married for a long period of time will no longer create a legal marriage here. However, a Florida common-law marriage could still be valid if the couple met the requirements before 1968.
Or a couple could have moved to Florida after establishing a common-law marriage in another state. In these instances, the marriage would normally be legal without the usual legal formalities and alimony an option.
A heterosexual or same-sex couple could decide to enter an enforceable contract before or during cohabitation that would be similar to a prenuptial or post-marital agreement for a married couple. Each partner could consult a family lawyer for advice in drawing up a negotiated agreement that would provide for support payments under certain conditions like the end of the relationship.
Legal counsel can see that the provisions of such an agreement would be enforceable and that it meets the requirements of a legal contract. Such a contract must be in writing. Florida courts have enforced these “nuptial agreements” so long as they are not covers for arrangements for intimate services in exchange for money.
Another option for future support might be to include a provision for future property division or ownership upon break-up of the relationship. In rare instances, one party may convince a court to establish a constructive trust on the other’s property.
Alimony, however, remains elusive in the Sunshine State without a valid marital relationship.