“Palimony” Update

Posted in Divorce

On February 4, 2013, the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court issued an important opinion concerning the future of “palimony”.

By way of background, in January 2010, the Legislature enacted a statute requiring that no legal action seeking enforcement of a palimony agreement shall be made unless the agreement is in writing and signed by both parties.  

In Maeker v. Ross, Ms. Maeker sought to enforce an oral palimony agreement based upon her long-standing relationship with Mr. Ross from 1998 to 2011, during which Mr. Ross supported Ms. Maeker, paid all of her living expenses to include expenses on a property she owned in Brooklyn. Mr. Ross also paid most of the college expenses for Ms. Maeker’s son. Most importantly, Ms. Maeker stated that Mr. Ross had promised to take care of her and provide her with lifetime support  (Mr. Ross also executed a Power of Attorney permitting Ms. Maeker to manage his affairs and  a Will in which he left her his entire estate. 

At trial Mr. Ross relied upon the January 2010 statute by way of defense to Ms. Maeker’s claims.  The trial court determined the existence of a viable palimony agreement despite Mr. Ross’ contention that the statute unambiguously prohibited the relief sought by Ms. Maeker.  The trial court also granted Ms. Maeker temporary palimony. Mr. Ross appealed.

The Appellate Division reversed the trial court’s decision and stated that since Ms. Maeker’s cause of action accrued at the time Ms. Ross breached their agreement in July 2011 (not at the time the agreement was entered into), Ms. Maeker had eighteen months from the passage of the statute to enter into a written palimony agreement with Mr. Ross.  The fact that she did not do so barred Ms. Maeker’s claims for relief.

Based on Maeker v. Ross, persons who are in a living-together arrangement wherein one party has agreed to financially support the other must reduce their agreement to writing.  Additionally, such persons are urged to obtain the advice of an attorney familiar with Maeker v. Ross and palimony agreements to avoid future legal problems. 

John Eory is the Co-Chair of Stark & Stark’s Divorce Group in the Lawrenceville, New Jersey office. For questions, please contact Mr. Eory.