Overview of Palimony in New Jersey
Palimony is a legal obligation to support an unmarried partner in a family-like relationship upon the termination of that relationship. Generally, a person seeking palimony must prove that there was an oral or written contract or promise to provide support for the individual for life, or some other agreed upon period. The consideration for palimony may also be inferred under a partnership theory. A partnership is an agreement to share profits and losses in investments, as well as to share ownership and control of property and business. The concept of palimony has existed in New Jersey Courts since 1979. At that time the Court in Kozlowski v. Kozlowski, 80 N.J. 378, 390 (1979) found that each party has an obligation to be fair to the other when the relationship ends. Usually, in order to prove palimony you need economic inequality between the two parties.
Also, in 2008, the New Jersey Supreme Court found that although cohabitation is one of many factors a judge should consider in determining a palimony claim, it is not essential to the claim. The Court further held that it is conceivable that in the absence of cohabitation a litigant may establish a marital type relationship and be successful with an alimony claim.
In the absence of a written agreement a palimony claim can be difficult to prove and even barred due to the new statute. However, partial performance by one side or the other may make the agreement enforceable depending on the facts of each case. The concept of palimony and its enforceability was changed by the New Jersey Legislature on January 18, 2010 when the Court amended the Statute of Frauds by adding a paragraph that states “A promise by one party in a non-marital personal relationship to provide support or other consideration for the other party,” shall be in writing and in order for the written promise to be binding each party must be represented by an attorney. Although all reported palimony cases in New Jersey have involved heterosexual couples, the concepts of palimony, joint venture and partnership apply to same sex couples as well. Proving a palimony case will involve discovery on how the parties lived, shared their income, supported one another, both emotionally and financially, and whether the parties held themselves as a couple to the world. Further, even if you do not have a valid palimony claim you may have other claims to real property or a business.
Commencing a New Jersey Palimony Claim
The attorneys at Wernik & Salvatore will help you determine if you have a valid palimony claim. Once the determination is made a Complaint can be filed in the Superior Court Family Part for a determination on the issue. Ultimately, if the matter is not settled, the Court will determine whether palimony will be paid. Unlike alimony in a divorce separation, palimony is usually paid in a lump sum award that is determined by the amount necessary to support the Plaintiff for the remainder of his or her life. If you feel you may have a claim or palimony or related causes of action, such as partnership, joint venture or unjust enrichment, contact Wernik & Salvatore, experienced family law attorneys to ensure that your interests are protected.