Palimony-in-Writing Bill Passed by Senate Judiciary Committee

The Senate Judiciary Committee recently approved bipartisan-sponsored legislation that would require all palimony agreements to be in writing and signed in order to be enforceable.

The bill, S-2091, amends N.J.S.A. 25:1-5, which already requires that prenuptial agreements be put into writing, to include palimony agreements. It adds a new paragraph “h” stating: “A promise by one party to a non-marital personal relationship to provide support for the other party, either during the course of such relationship or after its termination” shall be in writing and signed by the party to be charged.

Litigation of palimony claims is heavily fact-intensive and often acrimonious, since courts are typically dealing with non-explicit promises of support between unmarried couples. The difficulty was compounded last year by the ruling in Devaney v. L’Esperance , 195 N.J. 247 (2008), which held that cohabitation is not a necessary element of a palimony claim.

Claims that are asserted after the death of one of the parties are even harder to prove and are often complicated by contests raised by other claimants to the decedent’s estate, such as in In re Estate of Roccamonte, 174 N.J. 381 (2002), which held enforceable an implied promise of support for life.

The bill would modify both of those rulings as well as kozlowski-vs-kozlowski, 80 N.J. 378 (1978), the case that first recognized the availability of palimony in New Jersey.

The bill drew no public testimony and passed the committee without opposition. It now goes to the full Senate, where it is expected to pass.

The Senate Judiciary Committee also advanced a bill requiring the bonding of an executor when an estate beneficiary is developmentally disabled

The committee also approved a bill that would require an executor who manages an estate in which a developmentally disabled person is the primary beneficiary to post a bond and agree to a regular accounting, unless the executor is a member of the beneficiary’s family.

The State Bar Association had opposed the bill, S-550, on the ground that the costs of obtaining a bond and paying for an accounting could drain smaller estates of their funds.

At the urging of the Administrative Office of the Courts, the sponsor, Sen. Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, amended the bill to state that family members who are the executors in such estates would be exempt from the requirement. Daniel Phillips, the AOC’s legislative liaison, said the judiciary originally thought the bill was too broad but said the changes now make it acceptable. “There has to be a level of faith in family members that they’re going to do the right thing,” he testified.