Imagine the following scenario: you and your significant other have been living together for 15 years. You never married officially, but held yourselves out as a married couple. You have a joint bank account and pay all the bills together. Your significant other just told you he wants to end your relationship and he wants you to move out. What are your rights? Are you entitled to alimony?
In the State of New Jersey, if you and your significant other are not married, you are not entitled to alimony. You may, however, be entitled to what is known as palimony, which is compensation made by one member of an unmarried couple to the other after separation. In previous years, courts have held that palimony is based on a contract between two unmarried individuals, one of whom promises to support the other in exchange for love, affection, and emotional, physical, and social support from the other individual. This promise could have been either express or implied. If the financially dependent member of the relationship would be able to prove that the promise was in fact made, and thereafter broken, he or she would be entitled to a reasonable amount of support for the duration of his or her life.
In recent years, the legislature has made changes to the law such that obtaining an award of palimony has become substantially more difficult. In 2010, the legislature enacted a new law that prohibited the enforcement of palimony agreements unless they have been put in writing. Shortly after the passage of this law, the Appellate courts made clear that if any relationship had begun following the enactment of the new law, and a promise for support had not been put in writing, a claim for palimony would definitively fail. In February of 2013, the Appellate Division went one step further. It held that if the parties were involved in a relationship prior to the enactment of the new law, but did not bring a claim for palimony until after the date of the law, that claim would also definitively fail, unless a promise was expressly made in writing. The court reasoned that if the relationship had started prior to the law, the parties had an opportunity to reduce their agreement to writing after the new law passed. Their failure to do so would prevent any claim for palimony.
The constantly changing laws can be confusing and overwhelming. If you are involved in an unmarried relationship and believe you may have a claim for palimony, schedule a consultation with an experienced attorney to provide you with assistance. [Posted by Jenny Birz, Esq.]