Issues regarding palimony in New Jersey arise when couples choose to live together (or “cohabit”) without entering into a legal marriage or civil union. Like couples in marriages and civil unions, cohabiting partners sometimes divide responsibilities in a way that leaves one partner financially dependent on the other. If the relationship comes to an end, however, unlike partners in a marriage or civil union, cohabiting partners, including registered domestic partners, have no right to alimony or marital property distribution. Sometimes the more financially well-off partner promises to continue supporting the other partner, but later has a change of heart. The dependent partner is left wondering whether any legal recourse is available.
If you are a New Jersey resident and you are not married or in a civil union but your partner has promised to provide you with financial support or share property with you, you may have a viable New Jersey “palimony” claim if one of the following is true:
You have a written cohabitation or domestic partnership agreement that your partner signed after both of you received advice from separate attorneys, or
You have a similar agreement that is not in writing, and you and your partner entered into it prior to January 18, 2010.
The law in this area is complex and has gone through many changes. Whether you have a written agreement or not, your best course of action is to consult with an experienced palimony attorney to clarify your situation
Differences between Alimony & Palimony in New Jersey
“Palimony” is not a true legal term the way that “alimony,” “spousal support” or “spousal maintenance” (all of which generally mean the same thing) are legal terms. A couple cannot technically create marital property or provide one of the partners with a right to alimony by agreement, because the rules regarding equitable property distribution and alimony apply only to couples who are ending a legal marriage or civil union. One partner can, however, voluntarily assume a contractual obligation to provide the other partner with property rights or future financial support. The contractual obligation to provide financial support is sometimes called “palimony” because it generally has a purpose similar to the purpose of alimony.
Compensation without a Signed Cohabitation Agreement
For many years New Jersey law did not require a party to have a signed agreement to prove that an intimate partner had made a promise to provide financial compensation. This changed on January 18, 2010, when an amendment to the New Jersey “statute of frauds” went into effect. Since that date, only a written agreement that is signed after independent attorney consultations can be the basis of a valid palimony claim. In the 2014 case of Maeker v. Ross, the New Jersey Supreme Court clarified that the requirements of the statutory amendment are not retroactive. This means that if you have an agreement that is not in writing but predates the amendment, you may still be able to prove your claim in court.
The law regarding palimony and cohabitation agreements is still evolving. Always be sure to consult an attorney for the most up-to-date legal advice. Call us to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney to discuss palimony in New Jersey and to understand your situation (888) 888-0919.