Palimony: The End of a Relationship
Dissolution of a marriage presents in and of itself complex issues that practitioners deal with on a daily basis. These issues may involve child support, custody, spousal support, and the division of assets which have evolved over the years through litigation and developing caselaw. So what happens when a relationship ends and the parties have never been married? Questions are raised on how we handle certain issues that rise during the end of relationship, a “break-up”, that have been raised in cases where parties are ending their marriage. Well it all depends. Often times, there are no changed on how custody and child support is determined. However, it gets a bit more complicated when we are discussing issues of division of assets and support. Essentially we are not dealing with spousal support but support for a non-marital partner. So how do we determine division of assets and support at the end of a relationship. We deal with these issues through palimony.
Palimony exists for non-marital partners in a relationship. Palimony is the division of assets and the financial support provided for by one partner to the other. The New Jersey Supreme Court has provided non-marital partners with the ability to file an action against their ex-partner seeking palimony upon the termination of their relationship. Upon the termination of a relationship a non-marital partner can obtain palimony from their ex-partner upon a showing of an existence of a written agreement that established that your ex-partner has promised to provide you with financial support extending beyond the termination of the relationship. The promise must be in writing and executed voluntarily with the advice of counsel or waiver of same. In January of 2010, the New Jersey legislature made this rule clear. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 25:1-5, “[p]romises or agreements not binding unless in writing…” The legislative enactment of N.J.S.A. 25:1-5(h) changed the way we litigate palimony issues. N.J.S.A. 25:1-5(h) states that “[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 the purposes of this subsection, no such written promise is binding unless it was made with the independent advice of counsel for both parties.”
Prior to the new law set forth by the New Jersey legislature, practitioners had to rely on a few seminal cases that dealt with the issue of palimony. The court in Kozlowski v. Kozlowski, 80 N.J. 378 (1979) recognized the marital-like relationship that gives rise to contractual relationship whereby a non-marital partner has the legal right to seek the financial support from their ex-partner. Essentially in this type of contractual relationship we look for a promise to provide financial support, acceptance and reliance on that promise, and some form of consideration. See also Crowe v. De Gioia, 90 N.J. 126 (1982); In re Roccamonte, 174 N.J. 381 (2002).
Non-marital partners may seek relief from the court upon the termination of their relationship. The complexities surrounding palimony vary upon the facts and circumstances of your particular matter. If you are an individual who has been in a long term relationship and believe you have a right to palimony then it is important that you seek the advice and consult of an experienced divorce attorney in your area.