New Jersey Supreme Court sets precedent, ruling that an unmarried couple does not have to live together in order for one partner to sue the other for palimony after a breakup

In a ruling that overturned close to 30 years of legal precedent in the area of family law as well as an appeals court decision that said there is no basis for a palimony suit unless a couple lived together, the New Jersey Supreme Court recently ruled that judges should consider the “entirety” of a couple’s relationship in determining claims for palimony, and that cohabitation is only one factor to be considered in deciding whether they had a “marital-type relationship” which could support an award of palimony. The New Jersey courts had ruled since 1979 that cohabitation was necessary to bring a palimony suit. Prior to that year, the courts would not enforce support claims involving unmarried couples or married couples not living with their spouses.

In ruling that cohabitation was not required in palimony lawsuits in NJ, Justice John Wallace wrote for the NJ Supreme Court as follows:

It is the promise of support, expressed or implied, coupled with a marital-type relationship, that are the indispensable elements to support a valid claim of palimony,

The justices left it up to family court judges to determine when there is grounds for a palimony suit. Palimony is a court-ordered allowance paid by one member of an unmarried couple following a breakup. Alimony payments involve married couples.

Justice Wallace wrote that:

The Family Court is well equipped to consider highly personal facts and to determine whether a plaintiff’s claim for support based on a marital-type relationship has merit.

The NJ Supreme Court decision can be found here: Devaney vs. L’Esperance, a-20-07.doc.html

An article about the case from the New Jersey Lawyer Online newspaper can be found here – New Jersey Lawyer Online – News.