The New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee is pushing the passage of a new bill that would overturn a 2014 state Supreme Court ruling in favor of retroactively enforcing the 2010 law for palimony agreements, N.J.S.A. 25:1-5.
This legislation amended the existing Statute of Frauds and added palimony to the list of contracts that cannot be enforced if they are not in writing. The law further stated that even written palimony agreements would be considered void if they were not executed with the help of legal counsel for both parties.
The new legislation intends to re-enforce this original ruling and apply the written requirement retroactively to any palimony agreements entered into orally throughout the state.
2014 Ruling Overturned?
In the 2014 case Maeker v. Ross, Beverly Maeker and William Ross lived together for 13 years and separated about a year and a half after the 2010 law was passed. Maeker claimed she had been promised Ross’ financial support while they lived together, during which time she quit her job and managed Ross’ finances. She was the executor and trustee of his will in which he provided her with “comfortable support and maintenance.”
In 2011, according to the lawsuit, Ross ended their relationship and cut off financial support for Maeker. In turn, she filed a suit to enforce their oral palimony agreement. Ross attempted to have the suit dismissed based on the 2010 law. In deciding this case, the state Supreme Court ruled unanimously that nothing in the 2010 law indicated a retroactive application, so oral palimony agreements entered into prior to the law’s passage would continue to be in effect.
However, the new bill aims to negate this ruling. According to the Judiciary Committee Chairman, Nicholas Scutari, the lawmakers of the 2010 legislature always intended to have the requirement enacted retroactively. Now, S2553 would stipulate that all oral palimony agreements made before January 18, 2010 (the effective date of the original law) must be put in writing within one year in order to be considered valid under state law.
Shift in Control
Critics of the new legislation say that retroactive application will force divorced couples to revisit their original agreements, and in acrimonious situations, the written requirement may create a power struggle where the benefiting party needs the written agreement and only has a year to get it.
The party who controls the finances may drag their feet or cause problems and delays in getting the agreement in writing, which may negate the original agreement entirely if the deadline is not met.
At Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, our New Jersey family lawyers help couples who are separating or getting divorced to work through this painful process as smoothly as possible. If this new legislation is passed, couples who have already worked out their palimony agreements may need to get written documentation on file immediately or in the near future. To discuss your case and any applicable legislation changes, contact an HCK attorney for a consultation today.