Beyond Property: The Other Legal Consequences of Informal Relationships

Kaiponanea T. Matsumura.

It has often been said that there are three parties to every marriage: the two spouses and the state. This aphorism reminds us that the state has a strong interest in the marital relationship and that this interest is reflected in pervasive legal regulation. The parameters of informal relationships are not so clear. Partners may not always share the same understandings of the significance of their relationship, legal or otherwise, and the state is also somewhat noncommittal about its role. Although nearly all states allow partners to bring contract-based claims against each other when their relationships come to an end and a small handful will impose economic obligations on cohabitants whose relationships are sufficiently marriage-like, most informal relationships begin and end without significant state oversight.

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