Elon Musk and Grimes have announced their split, marking the third major billionaire separation in the past two years. However, where Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos both had to go through a divorce to leave their wives, Musk and Grimes were never married.
In many ways, this was a good decision for Musk. He doesn’t need to worry about splitting the assets he’s earned since getting together with Grimes (Since the pair started dating in May 2018, Musk’s net worth has increased from around $1 billion to an unbelievable $221 billion). However, it does leave Grimes with a problem: while the couple share a child, Grimes cannot claim alimony from her former partner to maintain her lifestyle.
That’s where a California law quirk known as “palimony” may come into play. When an unmarried couple that has lived together breaks up, one partner can pursue a palimony claim in civil court. Grimes may be able to receive support payments alongside child support in lieu of proper alimony. Keep reading to learn what palimony is, how it’s awarded, and how it applies to separations like the Grimes-Musk split and your own relationships.
What Is Palimony?
Palimony is a portmanteau of “pal” and “alimony.” The name says it all. It’s financial support that one person may be ordered to pay to their former unmarried partner after a breakup. It’s called “palimony” because, under the law, there are no requirements for the couple to have a legal contract or marital relationship.
Palimony came into being after a 1976 California State Supreme Court ruling. Michelle Triola successfully argued that her ex-partner Lee Marvin owed her support similar to alimony after she spent seven years sacrificing her career to support him and his household. The court ruled in Triola’s favor and set the precedent that in California, couples do not need to be married to be eligible for financial support after the end of the relationship.
In many ways, palimony takes the place that common-law marriage used to fill in California law. While the state doesn’t recognize common-law marriage, people ending a long-term relationship can use it as a way to win some of the support that’s available to lower-earning partners in ending marriages.
Palimony vs. Child Support
It’s important to note that palimony and child support are completely separate. Child support is considered a matter of family law, while financial support claims for unmarried partners are handled through civil courts. Furthermore, child support is awarded based on a specific calculation determined by California law. While the non-married financial support is often subjective, child support must legally follow the calculator’s results.
This means that many people can receive both child support and palimony if they have custody of children born from the ending relationship. Receiving child support does not invalidate someone’s claim to extra financial support or vice versa.
In the case of the Grimes-Musk split, Grimes will almost certainly be eligible for child support as long as she shares custody of the child she shares with Musk. Many sources determine her net worth to be $3 million, which is orders of magnitude lower than Musk’s. As long as she has any custody over the child at all, the court will take that discrepancy into account during its calculations and most likely award her a significant amount of support.
But how will the Grimes-Musk split play out? Grimes and Musk seem to be amicably separated, so it may be decided behind closed doors through legal mediation. However, if Grimes feels the need for a court order, she can file for palimony in civil court with a Marvin claim. From there, the court will determine whether Grimes is eligible for support payments, and if so, how much. The details of this hypothetical order would depend on Musk and Grimes’ private financial information.
How to Request Palimony
Palimony is a complex subject. Since it’s not considered a family court item, there’s no guarantee that a court of law will agree that you’re entitled to it. However, there are a few conditions that may make California courts more likely to consider you eligible for this financial support:
- You’re not married.
- You lived with your partner.
- Your relationship lasted a significant amount of time.
- You’re financially dependent on your partner.
- You shared income or assets.
- You shared credit cards or bank accounts.
- You primarily took care of your kids, pets, or the household.
These conditions demonstrate that your relationship was similar to what you’d have in a legal marriage. Once you’ve determined if you’re eligible, you can file your Marvin claim in civil court.
Palimony is determined similarly to alimony even though it’s handled by a different court system. The judge will make two decisions. First, they will decide whether they agree that you’re eligible for support. After all, not every divorce leads to alimony payments. Even if you can demonstrate that your relationship was similar to a legal marriage, the judge may not find that you’re financially dependent enough on your former partner to receive financial support.
Second, the judge will determine the amount and length of the palimony order. As with alimony, the amount and length will be decided based on the length of your relationship and the agreements you had in place. For example, if you sacrificed your career to raise your partner’s children while your partner supported you, the judge is more likely to award a higher support payment.
Legal Representation Make Palimony More Likely
Palimony is less reliable than alimony, but it can still be a vital support method for ex-partners who never married. Grimes may be eligible for support payments because of her deep relationship with Musk, and you may be too. Your relationship was no less real just because you weren’t married. Neither is your need for financial support.
If you’re considering filing a palimony claim, you should get qualified legal representation immediately. An experienced lawyer will help you navigate California law and improve your chances of receiving the financial support you need. Schedule your consultation today to discuss your situation and prepare your case.