Oral Palimony Agreements Enforceable If Made Before 2010
- September 30, 2014
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Last week, in the case of Maeker v. Ross, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that any oral agreements or promises to provide lifetime financial support to a non-married long term paramour prior to the year 2010 may give rise to an action for palimony. In 2010, the New Jersey legislature changed the law to amend the statute of frauds, N.J.S.A. 25:1-5(h), which prohibited the enforcement of oral palimony agreements. The law directs that “a promise by one party to a non-marital personal relationship to provide support or other consideration for the other party, either during the course of such relationship or after its termination” must be in writing, signed by the parties and with the advice of independent counsel. In the aforementioned case, the Supreme Court of New Jersey had to render a decision as to whether or not the statue applies retroactively to palimony agreements made before the statute was amended. In Maeker, William Ross moved to rely on the language of N.J.S.A. 25:1-5(h) to dismiss Beverly Maeker’s action to compel the enforcement of an oral palimony agreement between the parties. The parties’ relationship lasted for thirteen (13) years and although they never married, they lived together for the vast majority of that time. During the duration of their relationship, Ross paid for all of Maeker’s living expenses and made many promises that he would continue to take care of her. Based upon these promises, Maeker left her 20-year career in architectural glass. In 2011, Ross dissolved the parties’ relationship and ceased his financial support of Maeker. Subsequently, Maeker filed a Complaint to enforce the parties’ oral palimony agreement. Ross argued that because the agreement was never reduced to writing or signed by the parties, the statute of frauds prevented the agreement from being enforceable in court. The trial court denied Ross’s motion to dismiss, but the Appellate Division reversed the decision of the lower court holding that the statute of frauds prevented Maeker’s claim from being successful. This month, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that the 2010 amendment to the statute of frauds was not designed to make oral palimony agreements created before 2010 unenforceable because the state legislature understands that the court system does not retroactively apply statutes and because there was no discernible legislative intent that the amendment was to be applied retroactively, therefore the Court declined to apply the statute in this case. Written agreements are an important way to protect your security and assets in the event that a relationship dissolves. Due to the potentially complex nature of such agreements, if you would like to enforce or establish a palimony agreement to protect your rights it is critical that you seek out the advice of an experienced attorney before proceeding. For more information about palimony agreements, prenuptial agreements, divorce, alimony, or other family law matters in New Jersey visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com. This blog is for informational purposes and is in no way intended to replace the advice of an attorney.