Thursday, November 20, 2014

Palimony, more or less, arrives in Mexico

Guadalajara -
"Palimony" refers to the division of property and cash on the termination of a household relationship between two parties who are not legally married. It particularly includes the alleged obligation of one party to support the other for a period of time, generally because of a substantial income disparity. The term is derived from alimony, which is more commonly referred to as spousal maintenance in the modern domestic relations law of many jurisdictions.

Palimony is not an established legal principle in the U.S., and has been overwhelmingly rejected by those American courts which have considered it. The term became famous 40 year ago, when actor Lee Marvin was sued by his live-in girlfriend, Michelle Triola Marvin, after he ended their relationship and evicted her from his home. Triola claimed that Marvin had promised to support her for life, a contention ultimately rejected by the California Supreme Court in the landmark decision of Marvin v. Marvin, 18 Cal.3d 660 (1976).

In Mexico, millions of couples still "wed" without any formal recognition, religious or civil, and raise children over decades. The Spanish word casarse (marry) literally means "to set up a household," or perhaps more to the point, "to shack up." The closest American equivalent is common law marriage, which is recognized by only 16 states and expressly rejected in the other 34.

In an interesting decision this week a panel of Mexico's Supreme Judicial Court announced some principles designed to protect persons after the termination of a long-term "stable relationship" (the Court's words), regardless of whether the union was a formal marriage, the common law variety or simply a live-in arrangement with the appearance and incidents of such relationships. The judges ruled "compensatory" financial protection is a legal right of those in necessitous circumstances in any such scenario.

"State legislation which establishes the obligation to award compensation on separation to those married formally and to those living in common law unions, but which excludes other types of de facto households in which the parties were committed to one another's mutual protection over the long term, even thought they were not regarded as married, is inherently discriminatory in nature and fails to protect the rights of the parties to such relationships," the judicial ministers ruled.

In short, the panel found that those who have been "kicked out the back door" upon the end of a non-marital live-in arrangement may still petition for support, the amount, duration and circumstances of which will be determined by family law courts based upon the unique circumstances (income, assets and otherwise) of the parties. The judges emphasized that their ruling has no applicability to casual dating relationships, where no special expectations are created or might be inferred from the events.

The Court's ruling was premised upon the "nuclear rights" concept in Mexican constitutional law, under which any member of a "family" is entitled to basic protections by the State, regardless of whether that person is in a traditional or non-traditional relationship.

Sept. 28, 2013 - Mexican Supreme Court establishes U.S. property division rules in divorce cases

© MGR 2014. All rights reserved. This article may be cited or briefly quoted with proper attribution or a hyperlink, but not reproduced without permission.

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