Alex Blaze

Hawaii woman files palimony suit against partner

Filed By Alex Blaze | August 21, 2010 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Hawaii, lesbian, LGBT, palimony, relationships, suit, support

Lots of lessons to learn from this story:

Joanne-Gibeault .pngGibeault said a younger woman came between her and her partner, ending a relationship in which she depended on her partner's income and retirement plans.

"She didn't want me to draw a salary in my job because she made enough money to take care of us and to put away," Gibeault said.

Like other gay couples, Gibeault said they hoped to marry if it became legal. They also hoped for civil unions. But putting their arrangements in writing didn't seem important.

"We got along really well all those years and I just never worried about it," she said.

Gibeault said she even gave up her cabinetry business to care for her partner's aging parents. So, she said she was stunned by both the break-up and her sudden poverty. She said she pointed out to her partner that she owned none of the assets they'd accumulated as a couple.

"She said 'Well, sorry. Everything's mine. My name's on it'," Gibeault remembers.

She's filed a suit in civil court saying that they had a verbal contact for support, and she's seeking palimony. Hawaii has neither civil unions nor same-sex marriage.

Part of the specific problem here may have been solved with access to marriage, but there's no definitive proof of that. Considering that they had legal options - like putting their relationship in writing or drawing up a contract - and they didn't use them could mean that Gibeault's partner was stringing her along. She wouldn't be the first woman told that she'd be married if circumstances were different, only to be left for a younger woman.

The possibility of registration early on would have at least provided some clarity to Gibeault, but whether they were married or civilly united or not, whether those institutions were available or not, if the facts she told the journalists are correct then she should be entitled to some kind of support to at least help her get back on her feet. If someone in a relationship tells the other person she can quit her job and still be supported, that person has taken on a responsibility that should be respected whether they got a sheet of paper to go with their relationship or not. On the other hand, if they got married but both kept stable, full-time jobs, then there's little chance of alimony since there probably wasn't a promise that one would always support the other.

The answer here shouldn't be in the status of their relationship but in the way they lived their lives and the promises they made to one another. Gibeault's partner disagrees with the facts she's presenting - that'll be for a judge to determine. But I hope that the law in their state recognizes that promises of support come in many different forms, and if they can be proven, then they should be respected.

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Another example of why it's so important to take care of these things before you need them. "We got along well enough all those years" isn't a good enough excuse. Even without marriage, there were plenty of options for her to have taken advantage of "all those years."

Bil Browning:
> Even without marriage, there were plenty of
> options for her to have taken advantage of
> "all those years."

I don't think you understand the dynamics of such a relationship. Essentially, without the victim realising, she was being abused by someone who wanted her in her power and took away her independence, then took delight in leaving her destitute and alone for a younger woman, robbing her of even more. Unfortunately that is not an uncommon course of events whatever the sexes.

The victim was probably in fear that seeking unusual legal protection, even though wise, would be seem as doubting her partner and "spoil" the relationship, but did not admit to herself that itself showed the relationship was faulty.

Abusive partners always make efforts to dis-enable their victims from understanding their position until too late. Abuse is not necessarily physical, and even if it is the victim is often persuaded it is her (or his) own fault.

I don't know Hawai'i law, but I would hope that verbal contracts are legally enforcible there. In heterosexual relationships the lack of a marriage is often taken by courts are an indication of an understanding that there is no contract but I would hope that, especially in a state where the courts have held that equal marriage should be open to same sex couples but have seen that thwarted by by a constitutional amendment, and recently by a governor's veto, the courts would be open to enforcing verbal contracts between same sex couples in such such circumstances.