Is a Lawyer Required to Handle a Palimony Agreement in New Jersey?
Not Mandatory but Highly Advisable to Have Legal Counsel for Your Palimony Case
A Skilled Lawyer from Our Legal Team Can Help you Deal With the Financial Aspects of Ending a Long-term Relationship.
If you are living with a long-term partner, but are unmarried, and thinking about the future, you may have heard of the term “palimony”. Palimony is not an official legal term, but it refers to monetary support that is paid by one partner in a long-term, unmarried relationship to the other partner during their relationship or after the relationship ends.
While “palimony” gets its name from a play on the word “alimony”, it is fundamentally different from alimony in several ways. New Jersey law has also changed in the last decade in respect to the legal requirements surrounding palimony agreements.
In this article, we will explore the basics and nuances of New Jersey law on palimony, so you can make an informed decision about whether it might be the right option for you and your partner, and why having a lawyer handling your agreement can be extremely advantageous for preserving your interests in the future.
Understanding Palimony and its Legal Conditions in New Jersey
The term “palimony” refers to a contractual agreement by two long-term domestic partners for support payments and property division between the partners during the relationship or if and when the relationship ends. It can be thought of as a kind of prenuptial agreement between two people; only they are unmarried.
Under New Jersey law, unmarried, cohabitating people do not have the same legal rights as those who are married or in a civil union. Whereas, in a divorce proceeding of a married couple, a spouse may ask the court to award them alimony or spousal support from the higher income earning spouse, unmarried couples do not have a legal right to financial support after the end of their relationship without an enforceable, contractual agreement.
Prior to 2010, this agreement, known colloquially as a palimony agreement, could be written or oral. However, in 2010, the New Jersey Legislature amended the state’s Statute of Frauds to include palimony agreements. The Statute of Frauds lists the type of contracts that must be in writing to be enforceable. When including palimony as one of those types of agreements, the Legislature also set forth certain additional conditions of a valid and enforceable palimony agreement.
Under the amended law, agreements between non-marital partners for financial support and other consideration during or after the end of the relationship could no longer be oral. The law required that these agreements be in writing, signed by the party in which it will be enforced against, and that each party receive independent legal counsel when entering into the agreement. However, the last requirement for independent legal counsel has since been removed by the New Jersey Supreme Court. This change is discussed in further detail below.
Written vs Oral Palimony Application Retroactively
The New Jersey Supreme Court held in Maeker v. Ross that the amended Statute of Frauds, requiring palimony agreements to be in writing, does not apply retroactively to oral palimony agreements that were entered into before 2010, when New Jersey recognized oral palimony agreements as enforceable.
In Maeker v. Ross, a couple that had cohabitated for many years and entered into an oral palimony agreement prior to the change in law in 2010 separated in 2011. The court enforced the oral palimony agreement, finding that the couple was not required to anticipate that the Legislature might later require that such agreements be in writing. Therefore, the court found that the writing requirement did not apply retroactively to agreements created before the law was amended.
Is a Lawyer’s Participation Mandatory for a Valid Palimony Agreement in NJ?
While it is still wise to seek the advice of a lawyer prior to entering into a palimony agreement, whether you are the party who will be providing or receiving support, a lawyer is not required to approve a palimony agreement based on the New Jersey Supreme Court’s ruling in Moynihan v. Lynch.
In this case, the court found that the requirement for each party to have independent legal counsel violated the parties constitutional rights to enter into an agreement. Furthermore, the court noted that no other contractual agreement legally required the advice of counsel in order to be enforceable.
Benefits of Having an Experienced Palimony Lawyer on Your Side
Even though you are not required to have an attorney help you execute a palimony agreement, retaining legal counsel to draft or review your agreement can help you to ensure that the terms of the palimony agreement will protect you. If you are the party who may potentially provide support to your current or then-former partner, it is important to make sure that the terms of the agreement are ones that you can realistically fulfill and will not be harmful to your other legal and financial interests.
If you are the party who may be receiving support pursuant to a palimony agreement, you must understand the implications of the agreement you are signing and its potential impact on your financial choices before it is ever enforced. If you are in a long term, cohabitation relationship, it is important to think about and plan for the future needs of each partner. Contact our team of skilled and experienced attorneys today to discuss how we can assist with all aspects of your palimony case.
Contact Our Palimony Lawyers to Ensure Your Interests are Preserved in Toms River, NJ
As cohabitation has grown in popularity, it has raised a variety of problems about spousal support. Palimony is still a developing legal term, but a proactive divorce lawyer from our firm will be able to demonstrate its relevance. When you’re in a relationship that could lead to palimony after the relationship ends—whether or not you have a written commitment of support—it’s crucial to speak with an attorney to learn about the laws surrounding palimony.
If you or a loved one has been in a long-term relationship in New Jersey without being legally married and is seeking or agreeing to palimony after the relationship ends, you should contact the attorneys at The Bronzino Law Firm. We serve areas such as Little Egg Harbor, Barnegat, Rumson, Lacey, Colts Neck, Long Beach Township, and Eatontown in Monmouth and Ocean Counties and South New Jersey. Call (732) 812-3102 or contact us online for a free consultation to discuss your personal circumstances and how our firm can help.