What is the difference between palimony and alimony, and how does it affect my rights to support?
There is often confusion regarding one’s rights to support when separating from a long-time spouse or partner.
While the nuances of alimony itself are many, and what one’s rights are can become muddy when within divorce proceedings. These nuances grow all the more confusing when a separating couple was not legally married in the eyes of New Jersey family law. So what is a partner’s right to support when they separate from a long-term unmarried relationship? Read on to learn more about how New Jersey law handles these cases of ‘palimony’ and what your rights to support are when you separate from a partner after a long-term relationship.
What is alimony?
Alimony is a financial support system paid to one partner by another in their legal separation from marriage. The amount of alimony to be paid to ensure that both spouses can live with similar financial circumstances as they had before the split is determined by the New Jersey Superior Court: Family Part. As part of a couple’s divorce agreement, many factors are considered to determine whether one party will receive alimony and for how long. Some of the factors included in consideration of alimony payments are the necessity of financial support, the length of the marriage, each spouse’s age and health status, whether one spouse supported the other’s educational and professional training financially during the marriage, and whether one spouse forewent a professional career to stay at home with the children. The Superior Court judge will consider these and other factors to determine whether temporary or extended alimony is appropriate. Additionally, parental responsibilities are taken into consideration when awarding alimony, and custodial parents are often granted alimony in addition to child support payments.
What is palimony?
Palimony isn’t just ‘alimony’ with a ‘p.’ Rather, it is an element of New Jersey law that speaks to financial support payments for ex-partners in long-term, unmarried relationships. Palimony does not work in the same way that alimony works and its specifics have changed since 2010.
Before 2010, for there to be a legal claim for financial support, there had to have been an express or implied promise by one partner that they would support the other partner for life. As of 2010, New Jersey courts determined that palimony agreements could no longer be implied and had to be written. This greatly reduced the claims by one unmarried partner for palimony support, as written agreements of financial support in unmarried relationships are few and far between.
One example of a case in which financial support following a separation of an unmarried pair was not awarded when one would have otherwise assumed that such ‘palimony’ payments would be standard if they were similar to alimony was in the case of Lernihan v. Revolinsky, which was decided in the New Jersey Appellate Court. In this case, a couple was engaged and in a marriage-type relationship between 2002 and 2016, during which they had two children and invested in two homes together. Aside from shared contributions to the houses, the couples kept their assets separate. Each person made a living wage of between $49,000 and $58,000 when the couple got engaged, and at the time of separation, each of their wages had grown substantially, topping $100,000 annual salary. When the couple separated in 2016, the plaintiff in the case noted that she had only briefly relied on the defendant for financial support after the births of their two children and that otherwise she had contributed to payments for shared expenses and their homes but had otherwise kept her earnings and other assets separate. However, she noted that she expected an understanding that her partner would provide alimony, or palimony, support in the case of separation.
The judge in the case ruled that the plaintiff was not entitled to palimony and that she had the means to live comfortably and maintain her status quo in the absence of the partnership, given that assets had remained separate. There was no written agreement on financial life support.
To ensure your rights are protected and you receive your fair share in a separation from a long-time partner, you must seek the support of a qualified attorney.
Contact our Alimony and Palimony Attorney for a free consultation at our Linden Office.
Whether you believe you have the right to palimony, or your ex is seeking financial support from you, our firm is poised to assist you.
At Edward Cooper, Esq, we successfully represent clients in Clark, Roselle, Garwood, Elizabeth, and throughout Union and Essex Counties and northern Middlesex County.