According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2012 there were 112 million single individuals over the age of 18 living in the United States. This number represents 47 percent of the country's adult population.
UNMARRIED, COHABITATING COUPLES ARE ON THE RISE
Of this unwed population, over 12 million live with their romantic partners in nearly 6 million households across the United States. The number of unmarried, cohabitating partners has increased substantially over the past few decades. Between 1960 and 2000, the number of unmarried, cohabitating partners increased tenfold. The number of unmarried, cohabitating partners has grown even more rapidly over the past several years. For example, the number of unmarried, cohabitating partners increased by approximately 88 percent between 1990 and 2007.
Unmarried cohabitation is often a first step for couples who intend to get married. About 75 percent of unmarried, cohabitating partners report that they plan to get married as some point. In fact, over half of unmarried, cohabitating couples get married within the first five years of living together. However, approximately 40 percent of these couples break up within the same five year period and the remaining 10 percent remain as unmarried, cohabitating partners.
In 2000, there were 683,516 unmarried, cohabitating households within the state of California. Based on statistics provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, California contains one out of every eight unmarried, cohabitating households within the United States. California has more unmarried, cohabitating households than any other State, with 12 percent of all unmarried, cohabitating households within the Country.
As these statistics indicate, the legal rights and entitlements of unmarried, cohabitating partners is a subject that will affect a large number of Americans, particularly those residing in California, at some point within their adult lives.
UNMARRIED, COHABITATING CALIFORNIA COUPLES MAY BE ENTITLED TO PALIMONY
California does not recognize common law marriage. Therefore, unmarried, cohabitating couples who hold themselves out as a married couple are not given the same legal rights and entitlements as a legally married couple.
However, in the state of California, an unmarried, cohabitating individual may be entitled to palimony when their relationship comes to an end. Palimony is the division of financial assets and real property between unmarried, cohabitating couples. This entitlement is not based on family law principles, but rather on contractual agreement. Therefore, in order to receive palimony, a former cohabitating partner must prove that the couple had a written, oral, or implied agreement that they would receive some financial benefit in exchange for something of value such as, taking care of their partner, raising children, or giving up a career.
The most well-known palimony case in California occurred in 1977 when the actor Lee Marvin was sued by his long time live in partner, Michelle Triola Marvin for palimony. Michelle claimed that the actor had promised to take care of her financially for the rest of her life and that she had given up a singing and acting career to be with him. While the California Supreme Court did not find that the couple had an agreement, the case did solidify that where a written, oral, or implied agreement did exist, a former unmarried, cohabitating partner would be entitled to palimony.