Palimony is court awarded financial support from one person to another where a long-term, non-marital relationship ends. Generally, palimony is given to a person who is financially dependent on the other person, relying on express or implied promises that his or her significant other will support him or her for the rest of their life. The key consideration of the courts was whether or not the financially dependent parties could support themselves on their own.
Until January of 2010, no New Jersey statute addressed palimony claims. New Jersey courts have treated these situations as if the parties had a contract, not like a marriage, where the right to support is based upon a support contract between the parties. The dependent party could bring a request for palimony where the supporting party breached their promise to support the dependent party for life.
On January 18, 2010, the New Jersey Legislature amended its Statute of Frauds, N.J.S.A. §25:1-5, adding subsection (h), to include non-marital personal agreements. The Statute of Frauds refers to the requirement that certain types of contracts must be memorialized in a signed writing in order to be recognized as a valid contract. The Statue states as follows:
No action shall be brought upon any of the following agreements or promises, unless the agreement or promise, upon which such action shall be brought or some memorandum or note thereof, shall be in writing and signed by the party to be charged therewith, or by some other person thereunto by him lawfully authorized: (h) 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. For purposes of this subsection, no such written promise is binding unless it was made with the independent advice of counsel.
Thus, in order to be awarded palimony in New Jersey, the following must be proven:
(1) a long-term, non-marital relationship;
(2) a promise to support the party for life;
(3) a written agreement;
(4) the agreement must be signed by the person promising support to the other; and
(5) both parties must get independent advice from an attorney regarding the agreement.
The amended statute only applies prospectively, so an action that was filed before the effective date of the amendment is permitted to go forward and the existence of an agreement can be proven without a writing conforming to the amended statute. Botis v. Estate of Kudrick, N.J. Super. (App. Div. 2011). Additionally, the amended statute applies where a promise of support was made years before the statute became effective, but the relationship terminated after the effective date of the statute. Maeker v. Ross, N.J. Super. (App. Div. 2013).
Presently, the result in Maeker is being appealed to the Supreme Court of New Jersey. Unless Maeker is reversed, the current law in New Jersey is that any person wishing to initiate a palimony suit must now have the lifetime promise of financial support evidenced in writing, signed by his or her significant other, and both parties must have received the independent advice of counsel. As the law stands today, an undocumented palimony claim may no longer be viable in New Jersey.