Palimony is financial support which an unmarried person agrees to pay to his or her longtime companion if their relationship ever comes to an end, in order to induce the companion to remain in the relationship.
There was no requirement that New Jersey palimony agreements be in writing until January 18, 2010. On that date, the New Jersey Legislature passed an Amendment to the Statute of Frauds (a law that requires that certain agreements be reduced to writing to be enforceable), to include palimony agreements. Therefore, as of January 18, 2010, a promise of palimony was required to be in writing. The Amendment also required that each party have the independent advice of legal counsel, before the New Jersey palimony agreement would be enforceable.
The 2010 Amendment, however, failed to clearly answer the question of whether oral palimony agreements made before the Amendment but not violated until after the Amendment would be enforceable.
A little less than two months ago, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued a definitive ruling on that issue in the case of Maeker v. Ross.
Beverly Maeker lived with William Ross in a close unmarried relationship from 1999 to 2011. She claimed that she gave up her career to devote herself fully to Mr. Ross and that he repeatedly assured her over the years that he would take care of her financially for the rest of her life. When the two broke up in 2011, Ms. Maeker sued Mr. Ross to enforce his promise of support.
The New Jersey Family Court Judge denied the motion of Mr. Ross to dismiss Ms. Maeker’s claim. However, the Appellate Division reversed that decision, on the basis that Ms. Maeker’s rights did not come into being until 2011–a year after passage of the Amendment–when Mr. Ross abandoned her and broke his promise of lifetime support.
The New Jersey Supreme Court disagreed with the Appellate Division. It concluded that the determinative date was when the promise is made, not when the promise is broken. Since Ms. Maeker claimed that Mr. Ross made his promise prior to the date of the Amendment, the Court reinstated her claim.
In this day and age, even unmarried couples often need legal guidance regarding various legal ramifications of heir relationship, as well as Cohabitation Agreements when they decide to live together and Prenuptial Agreements when they decide to get married.
Salvaggio Law Group LLC devotes its entire practice to New Jersey family law matters, including those involving palimony, cohabitation agreements and prenuptial agreements.
If you need to talk about any New Jersey family law issue, please call us at (973) 455-1220 or fill out the Contact Form on our website.