The New Jersey Legislature is one step closer to passing legislation requiring palimony agreements to be in writing. Palimony is defined as a court-ordered allowance paid by one member to the other of a couple that is unmarried. This new legislation is in response to two recent New Jersey Supreme Court cases. In Devaney v. L’Esperance, the Court held that cohabitation is not an essential requirement for a cause of action for palimony, but that a marital-type relationship is required. Prior to the Devaney decision, the State Supreme Court held in In re Estate of Roccamonte, that an implied promise of support for life is enforceable against the promisor’s estate. Proponents state that judges should not determine the credibility of the relationship, while opponents argue that the partner who does not control the purse strings is harmed by such a requirement.
The bill, which was approved by the Senate and Assembly Judiciary Committee is now slated for a full Assembly vote. This bill is intended to overturn the above-referenced decisions by requiring that any such contract, either to provide support for the other party during the course of such relationship or after its termination, be in writing and signed by the person making the promise to be enforceable. Should this legislation pass, any agreement for support between unmarried partners would have to be memorialized in writing in a palimony agreement, equivalent to that of a premarital/prenuptial (or post-nuptial) agreement for married couples.
UPDATE: On January 18, 2010, Governor Jon Corzine made it official: Palimony agreements will only be enforceable if a couple memorialized their agreement in writing.
Nicole E. Cleenput, Esq.