New Jersey Palimony Agreements Must Be In Writing
- September 19, 2013
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According to a recent New Jersey Appellate Division decision, palimony agreements must be memorialized in writing if they are to be legally enforceable and the law requiring such is to be retroactively applied. The term “palimony” refers to the support that two unmarried people, who have lived together, promise to pay to each other upon the dissolution of their relationship. The status and availability of palimony throughout the United States varies dramatically from state to state. Some states will enforce palimony agreements other states will not. Further, of the states that do recognize the validity of palimony agreements, the rules that govern their enforcement are not uniformly applied across the states. Traditionally, in New Jersey palimony agreements could be either oral or written agreements to be legally enforceable. The 1979 case, Kozlowski v. Kozlowski, was the foundational precedent for these cases and had remained good law for decades. In 2010, the New Jersey legislature passed a law, N.J.S.A. 25:1-5, effectively amending the Statute of Frauds, which then mandated that palimony agreements be memorialized in writing. This shift in the law may have been caused by a shift in social culture. Over the last two decades, more and more couples have engaged in long term relationships that do not result in a marriage or civil union. Since the relationship dynamics have changed so much in our society, it may have proven difficult for a court to enforce an oral agreement for relationship configurations that appeared to be ever-changing. Therefore, it seemed natural for the law to mandate that palimony agreements be written as a means to minimize confusion and ambiguity over relationship statuses. On February 4, 2013, the Appellate Division rendered a decision in Maeker v. Ross that considered the issue of whether N.J.S.A. 25:1-5 could be applied to palimony agreements that were instituted before 2010. In Maeker, the litigants were engaged in a 10-year long relationship, in which the male partner supported the female. Their relationship ended in 2011 and Ms. Maeker sued Mr. Ross for palimony. The couple did not have a written agreement. N.J.S.A. 25:1-5, was codified in 2010 and required that palimony agreements be in writing in order to be enforceable. The trial court found that based upon the length of the relationship, the lawsuit could proceed. The Appellate Court disagreed and reversed the prior court’s opinion, essentially holding that all palimony agreements must be in writing and that the law should be applied retroactively. The decision has been appealed to the New Jersey Supreme Court. For more information about palimony, divorce, civil union dissolution, alimony, child support, custody or other family law matters in New Jersey visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com. This blog is for informational purposes and in no way intended to replace the advice of an attorney.