The lame duck session of the New Jersey Legislature passed S. 2091 which requires that a request for support coming from a “non-marital personal relationship” requires the formality of a written agreement. Whereas previously a party who resided together in a “marital-type relationship” could seek support — usually known as “palimony” — when such a relationship broke down, now that claim must rest on more than an oral promise to support for life.
The Legislature found that the requirement for a formal agreement is an essential protection to the parties. But is it? Or does this requirement merely set up a barrier which effectively leaves the supported partner without recourse? Is it realistic to think that parties who establish an ongoing (and perhaps lengthy) “marital-type” relationship will actually hire attorneys or draft an agreement themselves? What incentive will the supporting partner have to agree to pay lifetime support to their lover?
Query: Is this bill merely the Legislature’s way of saying that alternative lifestyles are no longer recognized by the State? Will lawyers now be writing Agreements similar to Pre-Nuptial Agreements but without the anticipated wedding?
One thing is for certain, when a long-term “marital-type” relationship breaks up, one party is likely to be at a significant financial disadvantage.
As in other aspects of domestic life, when the Legislature and the courts cannot help the parties, they should look to Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR), including mediation and Collaborative Law. These processes give the parties a respectful and civil way to work out a settlement that allows both of them to transition into the future. Less costly and non-adversarial, mediation and Colalborative Law, are also less expensive and far less emotionally draining. The relationship (and often a long one) may be over, but that is no reason to kick one party to the curb if there is a legitimate claim for support.
For more information on mediation and Collaborative Law, contact our offices at 609.951.2222 or on the web at www.rkleinerlaw.com.