The Guide to Marvin Claims for Unwed Partners

In some circumstances, Marvin claims can allow cohabitating unwed partners to enforce property-sharing or support agreements when they break up. While unmarried partners do not have automatic rights like married couples do in a divorce, Marvin claims can enable former domestic partners to pursue civil causes of action against each other.

What is a Marvin claim?

A Marvin claim is a legal claim to enforce expressed or implied agreements for support or property sharing between non-marital partners after a split.

Marvin claims get their name from the 1976 California Supreme Court decision Marvin v. Marvin, where the court determined that contract claims and other civil causes of actions can be enforced in the context of a non-marital partnership. While the division of property during a divorce is handled in family court, Marvin claims for unwed partners must be filed as a civil action.

What are the Marvin claim elements?

A Marvin claim is not a specific cause of action with its own set of elements that a plaintiff must prove. Rather, the term “Marvin claim” refers to any type of claim filed to redress alleged support and property sharing agreements between former domestic cohabitants. Therefore, the elements of a Marvin claim will vary depending on the underlying cause of action. 

Most commonly, Marvin claims are filed for breaches of oral or implied-in-fact contracts and torts such as fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and conversion. 

Other types of Marvin claims include:

  • Promissory estoppel
  • Implied partnership or joint venture
  • Quantum meruit
  • Unjust enrichment
  • Constructive fraud
  • Constructive trusts 
  • Injunctions

To succeed on a Marvin claim, the person filing the lawsuit must prove all of the elements of whatever causes of action are being asserted. For contract-based claims, there must be a clear agreement between the partners that defines the extent of financial sharing or support. When evaluating these claims, the court will review factors such as how long the unwed partners lived together, whether one of the partners provided financial support while the other took care of household matters, and whether the parties both contributed to property purchases.

How do I file a Marvin claim?

Marvin claims generally must be filed in civil court, which is a venue for private parties to resolve their disputes. In a civil case, a plaintiff files a complaint against a defendant.  

The first step in pursuing a Marvin claim is to consult with an experienced litigation attorney. A lawyer can review the facts of your situation to determine if there was an enforceable agreement between you and your ex-partner and what underlying causes of action you can assert in your Marvin claim. 

What’s the difference between palimony and a Marvin claim?

Palimony is a non-legal term used to describe the division of financial assets and real property or order for support issued when unwed cohabitating partners split. Whereas palimony refers to the remedy provided by the court, a Marvin claim is the civil action filed to obtain that remedy.

What is a typical defense to a Marvin claim?

One of the most common defenses to a Marvin claim is that there was no legally enforceable contract between the unwed partners. For a contract to be legally enforceable, there must be an element of “consideration,” also known as quid pro quo. This usually requires that each party makes a promise to the other party and that the promises are induced by each other. This means that one partner’s one-sided promises to support the other cannot be enforced through a Marvin claim.

Another commonly-used defense is that the statute of limitations is expired. The statute of limitations is a deadline for when a claim must be filed in court. If the deadline passes, the potential plaintiff loses their right to sue. The statute of limitations will vary depending on the type of claim, so you should consult with a lawyer as soon as possible to ensure that your case gets filed in time.

When should I contact a probate lawyer?

If you were in long-term cohabitation with a partner who has passed and you had an agreement that needs to be enforced, you should contact a probate litigation attorney to discuss the possibility of filing a Marvin claim. An experienced lawyer can analyze your situation and determine whether you have grounds to file any sort of Marvin claim.

Have questions? We’re happy to discuss.

Call (424) 320-9444 or email [email protected]

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About RMO, LLP

RMO LLP provides personal and efficient inheritance dispute services to individual and institutional clients. The firm’s attorneys focus on probate litigation involving contested trust, estate, probate, and conservatorship matters. Serving California and Texas, with offices in Los Angeles, Pasadena, Orange County, San Diego, Fresno, the Bay Area, Dallas, and Houston. For more information, please visit

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About the Author

Scott Rahn, Founding Partner

Scott Rahn resolves contests, disputes and litigation related to trusts, estates and conservatorships, creating a welcome peace of mind for clients. He represents heirs, beneficiaries, trustees and executors. He utilizes his experience to develop and implement strategies that swiftly and efficiently address the financial issues, fiduciary duties and emotional complexities underlying trust contests, estates conflicts and probate litigation.

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