Washington Law Review


Linda R. Larson


Plaintiff and defendant began living together in 1964. At that time they entered into an oral agreement whereby they would combine their earnings and efforts and would share equally in all property accumulated while they cohabited. Plaintiff averred that, in addition, they agreed to hold themselves out to the general public as husband and wife, although both knew defendant was legally married to another woman. Plaintiff then consented to give up her career as an entertainer in exchange for financial support from defendant for the rest of her life. For the following seven years, plaintiff rendered full-time services as a companion, homemaker, housekeeper, and cook. All property acquired during this period was taken in defendant's name. When the parties separated, defendant continued to support plaintiff for eighteen months, but subsequently refused to provide further support. Plaintiff brought suit to enforce the oral contracts. The trial court granted defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings and the court of appeals affirmed the dismissal. The California Supreme Court reversed and remanded. Held: Express agreements regarding the distribution of property between nonmarital partners are enforceable except to the extent that they expressly and inseparably rest on a consideration of meretricious sexual services. In the absence of an express agreement, courts may inquire into the conduct of nonmarital partners and apply theories of implied-in-fact agreements, resulting or constructive trusts, quantum meruit, or other equitable remedies in order to protect the parties' reasonable expectations. Marvin v. Marvin, 18 Cal. 3d 660, 557 P.2d 106, 134 Cal. Rptr. 815 (1976).

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