Palimony is defined as compensation made by one member of an unmarried couple to the other after separation. Unmarried couples may have other obligations toward each other, such as child support and division of jointly-held property, which are separate and unrelated to palimony.
In 2010, the legislature changed New Jersey palimony law. In order to be awarded palimony in New Jersey, there must be 1) a written agreement, 2) that agreement must be signed by the person promising to support the other, and 3) both people must get independent advice from an attorney about the agreement.
This was upheld by the 2014 Supreme Court Decision of Maeker v. Ross:
“In this case, Beverly Maeker and William Ross, although unmarried to each other, lived together and shared a marital-like relationship from 1999 to 2011. In the course of that relationship, Maeker alleges that she gave up a career and devoted herself to Ross, who promised to support her in the future. In short, Maeker claims that the two entered into a palimony agreement. In 2011, their relationship dissolved, and Maeker filed an action to enforce Ross's promise to provide financial support. Ross argued that the alleged agreement was not reduced to writing and could not be enforced under the 2010 Amendment to the Statute of Frauds.
The trial court rejected Ross's argument, concluding that the Legislature intended the 2010 Amendment to be prospectively applied. The Appellate Division reversed and dismissed Maeker's complaint, holding that the Legislature intended that any palimony agreement as of 2010 had to be in writing and that oral agreements predating the Amendment were no longer enforceable.
We disagree with the Appellate Division. We find that the Legislature did not intend the 2010 Amendment to apply retroactively to oral agreements that predated the Amendment. In amending the Statute of Frauds, the Legislature was aware that historically the Statute has been construed—absent a legislative expression to the contrary—not to reach back to rescind preexisting, lawfully enforceable oral agreements. The Legislature has given no indication that it intended to depart from the traditional prospective application of a change to the Statute.
Accordingly, we reverse the Appellate Division and reinstate Maeker's complaint.”
This ruling creates a significant legal burden for those seeking palimony payments. Both parties are required to have a written agreement and the assistance of legal counsel. Given the significant consequences for both sides, the selection of knowledgeable counsel is critical.
To assist you with the complexities involved with palimony, we advise you to contact one of Gebhardt & Kiefer’s experienced family law attorneys at 908-735-5161.