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The following is a brief summary of some of the many "Marvin" cases and the court's significant findings in each case.
Marvin vs. Marvin (1976) 18 Cal.3d 660
The case which began the Marvin action revolution. In it the court said:
In other words: People who live together can make enforceable agreements just like anyone else so long as the agreements are legal. The court also noted that other remedies may be appropriate to protect the parties' lawful expectations
- The provisions of the Family Law Act do not govern the distribution of property acquired during a nonmarital relationship; such a relationship remains subject solely to judicial decision.
- 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.
Henderson vs. Superior Court (1978) 77 Cal.App.3d 583
A "Marvin" action comes under the laws of the state where the agreement is made and the parties carried out the agreement. The case discourages parties from litigating their matter in California because of California's more favorable palimony laws.
Feldman vs. Nassi (1980) 111 Cal.App.3d 881
A Marvin agreement is not necessarily void by being promotive of dissolution of an existing marriage. It is to the court to decide if the marriage is already beyond redemption. This generally means that a married man could enter into a Marvin agreement with a woman who is not his wife, but only if his marriage is already beyond repair.
Estate of Fincher (1981)119 Cal.App.3d 343
The statute of limitations begins to run on a Marvin agreement when one of the parties leaves the relationship even if they later resume the relationship and begin a new Marvin agreement.
Jones vs. Daly (1981) 122 Cal.App.3d 500
If sexual services are an inseparable part and primary purpose of a Marvin agreement, the agreement is void.
Marvin vs. Marvin (1981) 122 Cal.App.3d 871
The court cannot go beyond the issues of the case as framed by the pleadings to make an award that exceeds even the expectations of the party. The court cannot right perceived wrongs without some recognized obligation in law or in equity.
In Re Marriage Of Johnson (1983) 143 Cal.App.3d 57
The provisions of the Family Law Act govern marital property, but do not govern the distribution of property acquired as part of a Marvin agreement; however, a party may file a Marvin action and moving to consolidate it with a divorce action.
Watkins vs. Watkins (1983) 143 Cal.App.3d 651
A Marvin agreement is not automatically terminated when the parties marry.
Taylor vs. Polackwich (1983) 145 Cal.App.3d 1014
The court determined that the plaintiff in a Marvin action was without a legal right or an equitable right to any property accumulated by the parties while they lived together and that the parties had no agreements for support; however, it was apparent that plaintiff needed assistance from defendant after their separation in order to maintain for herself and the children the lifestyle which they enjoyed while living with defendant.
The appellate court said that these considerations do not authorize a rehabilitative award.
Remedies may be fashioned only to enforce rights, not to meet the needs of one party or to achieve what the court perceives to be "equity" in a given situation.
Nelson vs. Nevel (1984) 154 Cal.App.3d 132
A party should be allowed to modify a Marvin complaint just like any other complaint to properly state a cause of action. A party is not required to allege a confidential relationship in order to sufficiently plead an action based on constructive trust.
Toney vs. Nolder (1985) 173 Cal.App.3d 791
Even in a Marvin action, an oral agreement that affects title must be shown by clear and convincing evidence. A preponderance of the evidence is not enough to establish a change in title.
Schafer vs. Superior Court (1986) 180 Cal.App.3d 305
A Marvin cause of action is not a family law matter and should therefore not be processed in the superior court under the special family law rules. A party is not entitled to support payments until the conclusion of the Marvin action. Such support is awardable under the Family Law Act, but a Marvin action is a civil action.
Alderson vs. Alderson (1986) 180 Cal.App.3d 450
A Marvin action is not voided just because the parties have sex. It is voided if sex is an inseparable part of the consideration for the agreement.
Milian vs. De Leon (1986) 181 Cal.App.3d 1185
Cohabitation is not a prerequisite a Marvin agreement. Parties can agree to pool their assets whether or not they live together.
Kroopf vs. Guffey (1986) 183 Cal.App.3d 1351
A California court can require a defendant from another state to litigate a Marvin action in California if it is shown that the agreement was made in California or the terms of the agreement were carried out in California. A Marvin agreement can be between parties of the same sex.
Tannehill vs. Finch (1986) 188 Cal.App.3d 224
A claim for real property must be proven by clear and convincing evidence.
Kurokawa v. Blum (1988) 199 Cal.App.3d 976
A Marvin action is subject to a two-year bar of statute of limitations from the time the parties separate.
Whorton v. Dillingham (1988) 202 Cal.App.3d 447
Portions of a Marvin agreement that are illegal can be severed from the rest of the agreement if the remaining agreement is able to stand on its own.
Bergen v. Wood (1993) 14 Cal.App.4th 854
Cohabitation is a prerequisite for some aspects of a Marvin agreement. Services as a social companion and hostess are not lawful consideration supporting a Marvin agreement because sex is an inseparable part of those services.
Friedman v. Friedman (1993) 20 Cal.App.4th 876
Pendente lite support (support pending the outcome of the litigation) is not allowed in a Marvin case.
Byrne v. Laura (1997) 52 Cal.App.4th 1054
A Marvin agreement is enforceable against the estate if one of the parties dies as is an oral promise of support.
Cochran v. Cochran (1997) 56 Cal.App.4th 1115
The statute of limitations on a Marvin action does not run when the parties separate if one of the parties continues to make support payments or otherwise continues the agreement.
Della Zoppa v.Della Zoppa (2001) 86 Cal.App.4th 1144
A Marvin agreement is not voided when the parties agree to have children together. Although sex is generally a prerequisite to having children, this potion of the Marvin agreement can be found to be separable from the rest of the agreement.
In re the Marriage of Tejeda (2010) 179 Cal.App.4th 973
If a marriage is invalid because of bigamy or some other legal defect, the property acquired during the invalid marriage is still divided as if it were community property.