Leaving A Long-Term Relationship In New Jersey? What Should You Know About Palimony?

Law Blog

If you've recently made the difficult decision to end a relationship with your long-term partner, you may be wondering exactly how to divide the assets (and debts) accumulated during your relationship. And if you spent most of your relationship as a homemaker or raising your and your partner's children, you may be wondering whether you'll even be able to support yourself without a significant settlement from your soon-to-be ex. In New Jersey, there are some specific laws governing the award of financial support to a non-spouse partner -- however, these laws were recently changed to significantly heighten the requirements one must meet to be awarded palimony. Read on to learn more about this change and when (and how) palimony is now treated by New Jersey courts, as well as how you can expect to divide your remaining assets and debts.

What is palimony?

The term palimony is a play on words of "alimony" -- but rather than referring to the spousal support paid to a low-income or unemployed spouse after the end of a long-term marriage, this is a support payment made to a non-spouse partner after the dissolution of a lengthy relationship. Prior to 2010, New Jersey courts had been given wide latitude to award palimony to partners who would have otherwise been unable to earn a decent living or who had set their own careers aside to prop up the career of the higher-earning spouse. 

However, the laws permitting judges to award palimony to non-spouses in the absence of a written agreement ended after the 2010 amendment to the New Jersey statute of frauds. Now, in order to receive palimony, you'll need to be able to present the court with an agreement signed by both you and your ex promising a lifetime of support. Although this law didn't take effect until 2010, it has been deemed by the trial courts as applying to relationships that commenced well before that point and ended in 2010 or after.

How will your assets be divided if palimony isn't awarded?

If you and your ex don't have a written agreement to provide you with support, your assets and debts can likely be divided outside the courts. In some cases, this can be a relatively uncomplicated process -- if you each have savings, retirement, or student loan accounts in your own names, you'll be able to take these assets and debts with you. However, if you find that your own name is on a disproportionate number of debts (or not many assets) and you're unable to come to an agreement with your ex on these matters, you may wish to file a civil lawsuit against your ex to seek a share of assets accumulated during the relationship. For more information, talk to a family law lawyer.


8 January 2016

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