Sesame Street Actor Embroiled in Dispute Over Oral Palimony Agreement

Should Montclair resident Sharon Joiner-Orman receive palimony from her partner of 39 years, Sesame Street actor Roscoe Orman — even though the support agreement was never put in writing? Here’s the scoop on a controversial new ruling from a New Jersey Superior Court judge.

First, some background on palimony. In 2010, a new palimony law was passed in New Jersey requiring all support agreements between unmarried partners to be put in writing and reviewed by legal counsel on both sides. The law has been viewed as one way to better define palimony, or the paying of support after two unmarried partners end their relationship, given that increasing number of couples in New Jersey are choosing not to marry. Prior to 2010, oral agreements to pay palimony had been accepted as valid.

However, in the first major court case to challenge this law, Sharon Joiner-Orman, who was in a relationship with actor Roscoe Orman from 1972 until 2011, says that their oral agreement to have her stay home and raise the kids in exchange for him taking care of her financially for the rest of her life should still stand — even though it’s not in writing — because she made good on her end of the bargain. In a surprise decision last month, Superior Court Judge Ned Rosenberg agreed with her, citing that Joiner-Orman — who gave 39 years of companionship to Orman, as homemaker and mother of their four children —  “fully performed her end of the bargain” and therefore should be financial support, as promised.

As the New Jersey Law Journal reports, in granting Joiner-Orman’s motion, Rosenberg found that to permit Orman to avoid living up to his promise to care for Joiner-Orman financially for the rest of her life would be fraud, which is why Rosenberg says this case should be excepted from the “get it in writing” rule for palimony.

“There is no good reason why a partial — or at the very least — full performance exception should not apply to the context of palimony agreements,” Rosenberg wrote. The judge also set a time later this fall for determining the appropriate amount to be paid. Both parties were ordered to submit financial documents.

Roscoe Orman is best known as Gordon on Sesame Street, a role he has had since 1974. According to reports, he and Joiner-Orman began dating in 1972 and started living together soon after. In an inscription to her in his 2006 memoir, Orman wrote, “Thank you for being my wife, my partner, the love of my life. Always and forever, Roscoe.”

The relationship ended in 2010, when Orman moved out of their home in Montclair. Court documents show that he provided Joiner-Orman with some financial support until 2012, when he remarried.

It’s unclear if Orman plans to appeal the ruling, but some are concerned that if this request for palimony is granted on the grounds of oral contract fraud, it will open up the possibility for other palimony cases to be questioned.

Do you think the Sesame Street actor will be made to pay? We’ll update this post after the hearing takes place later this fall.