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Bar Association of San Francisco Member Benefits: Publications

Family Law Corner: Arnold’s Judgment Day


By Ariel Sosna and Sarah Van Voorhis Van Voorhis & Sosna


Legendary tongue-wagging rock star Gene Simmons of KISS and former Playboy Playmate of the Year/model/actress Shannon Tweed have been together for twenty-eight years and have two children together, Nick (20) and Sophie (16), but they have never married. A&E’s “Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels” is in its sixth season and stars this unconventional-con-ventional family. However, promotional appearances by the couple for the newest season suggest that the relationship may be over.

In June, Tweed famously tore off her microphone during an interview with Joy Behar and stormed off the set after Simmons made jokes about the number of women he had slept with. In a recent "Today Show" interview, Kathy Lee Gifford asked “Are we going to see this relationship unravel?”

“It’s pretty much unraveled,” Tweed responded. If Simmons and Tweed end their relationship, the two could end up embroiled in what is known as a Marvin action instead of your typical celebrity divorce.
Marvin v. Marvin (1976) 18 Cal.3d 660 is a case involving the Academy Award-winning actor the late Lee Marvin and his live-in-girlfriend of five years, Michelle Marvin. Michelle claimed that Lee had promised to take care of her the rest of her life. The California Supreme court held that unmarried cohabitants cannot be treated like married persons, but it is possible for non-marital relationship contracts to exist and these contracts may be express or implied, oral or written. The court concluded that contracts between unmarried cohabitors are enforceable so long as they do not rely upon the sexual relationship as consideration for the contract. On remand, the trial court found there was no agreement regarding property between the parties, which meant no recovery for Michelle Marvin.

To file a Marvin claim, Shannon Tweed must file the claim as a separate civil action since family courts do not have jurisdiction over non-marital actions. In determining the merit of Tweed’s claim, a court must consider factors such as: did the parties live together, did they contribute jointly to purchasing property, did one party perform valuable services for the other or for the other party’s business or employer, and finally, is there any express agreement or tacit understanding regarding property or support?

Simmons’ estimated net worth is $300 million, while Tweed’s is approximately $20 million. Considering the nature and length of their relationship; their hit television show, two children, and multiple properties, it is likely that Tweed has a strong case. Certainly, Tweed has an argument for the fact that her future earning potential is strongly tied to her relationship with Simmons. Without their relationship, she would not have the television show income or book sales that she currently has for her income. It remains to be seen if the Tweed-Simmons bickering is the real thing or just a publicity stunt designed to promote their show.


Sarah Van Voorhis and Ariel Sosna are founding partners of Van Voorhis & Sosna.

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