Palimony, formally recognized in New Jersey in 1979, is meant to function like alimony, but for non-married couples. Over the thirty years since its inception, there have been many changes to the requirements to obtain palimony. Definitions of “marital-type relationship” as well as the condition of cohabitation of have been heavily debated and legislated with tighter legal definitions placed around requirements of living arrangements and how palimony agreements need to constructed.
First, as explained in Devaney v. L’Esperance co-habitation is not a requirement for a palimony claim. In this case, a man stayed married to his wife but had a twenty year relationship with a girlfriend. While they never cohabitated, he spent considerable time with his girlfriend, during which time he made promises and a long-term commitment to her. After hearing the case, the New Jersey Supreme court decided that cohabitation was not in fact needed to legally establish a marital-type relationship Rather it is the “promise to support, either expressed or implied” that is the necessary factor. So you do not have to live together to receive palimony.
Second, and more recently, in 2011, during his final days as Governor, Jon Corzine signed Assembly Bill 2296
into law and for the first time mandated that only written and signed palimony agreements could be legally binding. No longer were verbal promises and agreements legally binding in palimony claims. Additionally, each partner must obtain separate legal counsel (or formally waive the right to a lawyer in writing). So you do need a written signed agreement and legal counsel in the construction of that document is suggested.
Given that there is an ever growing body of individuals who believe that the institution of marriage is an old fashioned and outdated concept. While still not in the majority, the number of unmarried couples choosing to live as a family is growing. And, with same-sex marriage not legal in the State of New Jersey, gay and lesbian couples wishing to establish themselves as a family have no choice in the matter but to live unmarried.
In today’s modern world, unmarried couples may choose to have children, hold joint assets including a house and investments, and co-own businesses. They establish themselves in their communities as a family and build their lives together. However, as often unpredicted, facing the same pressures as traditionally married couples, there may arise the need to split and live separate lives.
Since unmarried couples do not go through the process of divorce, they often find themselves in murky waters attempting to divide assets and provide equal compensation to each partner for significant, but non-compensated contributions to the family. For example, a non-married couple may have made the joint decision for one partner to leave the workforce to care for the home or a child. One partner may have received significant inheritance during the course of the relationship which was considered “joint” while the couple was together and suddenly up for distribution. Since alimony is only for divorcing married couples, palimony the equivalent for a non-married couples.
For couples living as a family, but not legally married, a split leaves certain uncertainties which could be financially and emotionally devastating. Palimony agreements can help protect significant assets and material property, put very clear language around joint ownership of businesses and debt, financially balance a couple when a mutual decision is made for one partner to stay home, and clarify promises of long-term financial support. Palimony agreements are formal legal documents, which, if enforced, could have significant long and short term consequences for each partner of a non-married couple.
Here at The Law Offices of Edward R. Weinstein, we have expertise in the many legal issues facing non-married couples including palimony agreements, civil unions, same-sex partnership agreements, and domestic partnership agreements. Please call our office today at 732-246-0909 to schedule a free consultation.