New Jersey does not have common law marriages. However, New Jersey allows unmarried parties to assert a claim for palimony.
Often times the parties lived together but never married but have held themselves out as or operated like a married couple. The expectation of continued support come from promises made during this time. Recently the Court has held that cohabitation is not a requirement to maintain a successful a palimony claim.
Promises Made/Promises Kept?
When unmarried people break up and then one seeks support from the other, it is the Court’s primary focus to determine if there was, in fact, a promise by one to the other of continued support. The Court will focus on contract principles. In doing so, the Court will look to see if the promise was a verbal promise or a written promise. Was it an express promise or was it an implied promise? Importantly, palimony agreements must now be in writing due to an amendment to the statute governing palimony. These are questions of fact that need to be determined by the Court. The next inquiry is to determine if the promise is enforceable. Was the promise of continues support based upon the exchange of something else? The Court needs to see what type of consideration was made to support the promise.
If the facts and circumstances prove that there was a promise for support and the promise is enforceable, the Court may determine that a contract was in fact made between the parties and the terms of the contract include a continuation support post breakup.
There may be a breach of the contract, if there is a contract, and the relationship ends. The party who has breached the contract may have to pay damages to the non-breaching party. Upon the showing of a contract for support and a breach of the contract, a majority of cases in New Jersey provide that damages to the non-breaching party are paid via a lump-sum payment by the breaching party whereby a yearly annual support amount is determined and then multiplied by the breaching party’s life expectancy and then reduced to a present value.
While we do not recognize common law marriage, there certainly may be financial exposure to parties who enter into a legitimate contract for support, and are in a committed relationship but have never married.
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions about this post or any other family law matter.