“Palimony” is the payment of financial support to a former live-in romantic partner. It can also refer to the division of property as if it were community property.
In Nevada, “palimony” rights arise from a cohabitation agreement. The agreement does not need to be in writing. Though the partner suing for a palimony award must prove that the agreement provided for:
- The sharing of property after a break-up, and/or
- The payment of post-breakup financial support.
To help you better understand palimony suits, our Las Vegas family law attorneys discuss:
- 1. What is “palimony”?
- 2. How are palimony rights created in Nevada?
- 3. Does an agreement for palimony need to be in writing?
- 4. What rights can couples create under a palimony agreement?
- 5. When is a palimony agreement illegal?
- 6. Can I get palimony if I was in a common law marriage?
1. What is “palimony”?
People use the term “palimony” in two different but related senses in Nevada. Palimony can mean:
- The right to property acquired during the romantic relationship, and/or
- The right to financial support payments from a former romantic partner.
In both cases, it applies to rights an unmarried couple agrees to in case they break up. It does not matter whether the partners are same-sex or opposite sex.1
2. How are palimony rights created in Nevada?
Unmarried couples create palimony rights with a cohabitation agreement. Cohabitation agreements are sometimes called “living together” agreements.
A cohabitation agreement is similar to a premarital/prenuptial agreement. Though a couple can enter into a cohabitation agreement either before or after they move in together.2
3. Does an agreement for palimony need to be in writing?
An agreement setting forth an unmarried couple’s property rights is often in writing, but it does not have to be.
A couple can also create palimony rights
- verbally or
- by their conduct.3
The partner suing for palimony has the burden of proving that an agreement exists. They must also prove the specific terms of the agreement.4
Palimony issues are especially common in cases where one person is a homemaker and the other has a high earning capacity. If they break up, the homemaker may feel entitled to palimony for the “sweat equity” they put into the relationship.
4. What rights can couples create under a palimony agreement?
Unmarried partners have the right to decide how they will own property.
If they want they can own property “as though” it were community property. This is sometimes called
- “quasi-community property” or
- community property “by analogy.”
Under this approach, they agree that if they break up, they will share the property equally.
Couples can also agree that one partner will continue to provide financial support similar to alimony (“palimony”) to the other after a breakup.
- Child custody and child visitation rights,
- Disposition of a house or other property after a breakup, and
- The right to medical decisions for a partner.5
5. When is a palimony agreement illegal?
A palimony agreement is illegal in Nevada if it constitutes payment for sexual services only. To be valid, the couple must be a legitimate romantic couple.6
6. Can I get palimony if I was in a common law marriage?
Nevada does not recognize common law marriage. Nevada law requires a marriage license and marriage ceremony. Though you may still be able to get palimony through an express or implied cohabitation agreement.
Note that if you are in a common law marriage in another state that recognizes common law marriage, Nevada law will consider you a legally married couple if you move here.
See our related article about the putative spouse doctrine, where Nevada law will grant marriage protections to couples who genuinely believed they were married and did not know that a legal impediment prevented them from being legally wed. In these cases, courts will award alimony only on a showing of fraud.7
Need help with palimony in Las Vegas? Call us…
If you are involved in a property or support dispute with a former domestic partner, our divorce attorneys invite you to contact our law office for legal advice.
Our law firm offers consultations so that you can discuss your palimony case with an experienced Las Vegas family lawyer. Or if you are thinking about cohabitating, we can draw up a written agreement safeguarding your rights. We also serve clients in Colorado, California, and Arizona.
- See, for example, Bumb v. Young (Nevada Supreme Court, 2015) 131 Nev. 1258 (“The community property by analogy doctrine is the same as California’s palimony doctrine.”). See also Landreth v. Malik (2011) 127 Nev. 175 (family courts can have jurisdiction over matters involving the property division between unmarried, childless couples).
- Western States Constr. v. Michoff (1992) 108 Nev. 931; Hay v. Hay (1984) 100 Nev. 196, 678 P.2d 672 (“The courts should enforce express contracts between nonmarital partners except to the extent that the contract is explicitly founded on the consideration of meretricious sexual services … In the absence of an express contract, the courts should inquire into the conduct of the parties to determine whether that conduct demonstrates an implied contract, agreement of partnership or joint venture, or some other tacit understanding between the parties. The courts may also employ the doctrine of quantum meruit, or equitable remedies such as constructive or resulting trusts, when warranted by the facts of the case.”).
- See the following case law: Sack v. Tomlin (1994) 110 Nev. 204, 871 P.2d 298. Langevin v. York (1995) 111 Nev. 1481, 907 P.2d 981. In Howard v. Hughes (2018) 427 P.3d 1045 (“Under Sack, cotenants are presumed to equally share property, “unless circumstances indicate otherwise.” Sack… Additionally, the presumption of equal shares may be rebutted through unequal contributions to property by unrelated cotenants who lack donative intent…If successfully rebutted, fractional shares are based on the amount contributed by each party… Langevin purportedly applied the Sack presumptions to joint tenants, but it divided property in proportion to the amount contributed by each party without clearly rebutting the presumption of equal ownership. Langevin …We take this opportunity to clarify that the presumptions from Sack concerning tenants in common apply to joint tenants. As such, prior to dividing fractional shares held by cotenants, the initial presumption of equal ownership must be successfully rebutted. We therefore hold that because Hughes rebutted the secondary presumption by presenting substantial evidence of Howard’s donative intent, Howard and Hughes were joint tenants with equal ownership interests in the property.”). Peters v. Peters (1976) 92 Nev. 687, 557 P.2d 713 (“In this state, unless otherwise provided by law, decree, or agreement, all property acquired after marriage is considered to be community property, NRS 123.220, and that presumption can only be overcome by clear and convincing evidence.”). See also Carr-Bricken v. First Interstate Bank (1989) 105 Nev. 570, 779 P.2d 967 (when property acquired during pre-marital cohabitation gets divided after divorce.)
- See note 2.
- Western States Constr. v. Michoff (1992) 108 Nev. 931 (“such parties could not legally contract for “meretricious” sexual services, but that all other contractual arrangements were permissible”).
- See note 2. Williams v. Williams (2004) 97 P.3d 1124. Wolford v. Wolford (1948) 65 Nev. 710. Also