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Unmarried Couples and Palimony in Illinois

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Illinios divorce attorney, Illinois family law attorney, cohabitation,Illinois does not recognize alimony between unmarried couples, commonly referred to as palimony. Palimony, similar to alimony (maintenance), is an arrangement whereby one partner makes support payments to the other partner after the relationship ends. This law was established by the Illinois Supreme Court in 1979. However, a state appellate court recently held that the Supreme Court’s decades-old decision has been rendered obsolete.

The appellate case involves domestic partners (Jane and Eileen) who met in the 1980s. During their years together, the couple raised and cross-adopted three children. They also merged their finances, purchased real estate and registered as domestic partners in Cook County in 2003. After the relationship ended in 2008, Jane moved out of the house that they had purchased together. Two years later she filed a petition seeking to divide the value of the house. Eileen filed a counterclaim, arguing that she should have sole title since she had been a stay-at-home mom while the children were young, Jane’s medical partnership was purchased with common funds and Eileen had assumed maintenance costs after Jane moved out.

Jane argued that Eileen’s counterclaim amounted to a palimony claim, which is barred under Illinois law. The trial court agreed. Eileen appealed, arguing that intervening judicial and legislative changes in Illinois now support palimony claims. The appellate court agreed with Eileen, holding that “the public policy to treat unmarried partnerships as illicit no longer exists, that [Eileen’s] suit is not an attempt to retroactively create a marriage, and that allowing her to proceed with her claims against her former domestic partner does not conflict with this jurisdiction’s abolishment of common law marriage.”

The appellate court then directed the lower court to consider Jane and Eileen’s claims.

While the court’s decision is significant, it does not mean that palimony claims are now legal. The court’s decision only affects claims in that jurisdiction. Unless the Illinois Supreme Court reverses its own precedent – or unless every other appellate court in Illinois permits palimony claims – palimony, as a general rule, is not recognized in this state.

Cohabitation Agreements between Unmarried Couples

In the meantime, an unmarried couple may enter into a cohabitation agreement, which is a contract between two partners that establishes each party’s financial rights and obligations in the event of separation or death. Cohabitation agreements typically include provisions pertaining to:

  • Division of joint and separate property;
  • Household expenditures, such as mortgage or rent payments and home repairs;
  • Property ownership rights; and
  • Parental roles, if the relationship produced children.*

*If the couple separates, either party may petition for child custody. The court does not have to adhere to any custody arrangements agreed upon in a cohabitation agreement.

Cohabitation agreements are good options for unmarried couples in long-term relationships. If you want to establish your rights and responsibilities, contact one of our experienced Kane County family law attorneys today. We can assist those in the St. Charles area.

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