Although alimony and spousal support are commonplace topics for most married and divorced couples in New Jersey, “palimony” represents another concept that remains a mystery to many. Palimony was originally accepted under New Jersey law in 1979. Its primary intention was to serve a similar purpose as alimony, but for unmarried couples. Just as most areas of divorce and family law are constantly evolving, the requirements and definitions associated with palimony have been modified extensively in the last three decades. It is important to understand the body of case law in this area, as well as current New Jersey policy regarding palimony, in order to evaluate its potential utility for your own life.
In the precedential case of Devaney v. L’Esperance, the New Jersey Supreme court established that cohabitation is not a necessary condition for a palimony award. In fact, grounds for a palimony claim only required that the couple be engaged in a “marital-type relationship” during which a “promise to support was either expressed or implied.” The requirements for a palimony claim were made much more stringent in 2011, when Governor, Jon Corzine signed Assembly Bill 2296. Under this new law, New Jersey now requires a formal, written and executed agreement in order to recognize a palimony arrangement as legally enforceable.
Similar to the requirements for valid prenuptial agreements, valid palimony agreements require both parties to enlist independent legal counsel, or to formally waive the right to legal counsel in signed documentation, before executing a palimony arrangement. Also similar to prenuptial agreements, palimony agreements allow couples who engage in long-term relationships to protect themselves if the relationship should end.
Considering the increasing number of couples who choose not to marry, but to enter into committed, long-term relationships, it is far more common for unmarried couples to share assets, intermingle finances, have children, and enmesh their lives in the same way that married couples do. As such, cohabitation agreements have become increasingly common, addressing a vast array of issues ranging from division of assets to child custody. Palimony can serve a similar function, outlining financial rights and responsibilities to support, should you choose to go your separate ways.
Although palimony serves a similar function as alimony, it is typically provided in a very different way. Specifically, alimony is divided and disseminated over time in installment payments. On the other hand, palimony is generally provided in a single lump sum. Unlike alimony, which is predicated upon the maintenance of a lifestyle enjoyed during a marital relationship, palimony is contingent upon a legal agreement to provide future financial support. Consider the following scenario: one partner agrees to stay home while raising the children during their formative years, thus forgoing career advancement. Palimony can provide protection for the primary caregiver if the relationship is dissolved in the future.
Overall, palimony agreements are highly nuanced and extremely significant for the long-term financial security of both parties. When considering palimony, a prenuptial agreement, a civil union, or a cohabitation arrangement, it is highly advisable to consult with a knowledgeable divorce and family law attorney. The legal professionals at Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark have assisted individuals and couples across New Jersey in devising and executing agreements that serve their best interests. To learn more, contact our Bergen County offices at 201-397-1750 for a free consultation.