“I promise to support you” is worthless unless it is in writing.
Palimony is when one person in a non-marital relationship seeks to enforce either a promise for support or a promise for property against the other party. On January 18, 2010 New Jersey’s statute of frauds laws were changed to specifically bar palimony claims that were not in writing. Prior to that time unmarried parties could successfully litigate claims against each other to enforce prior oral promises of property or support.
An interesting question arose, “what if the promise was made prior to January 18, 2010 but the lawsuit was filed after that date?” A Cape May County Superior Court Judge recently decided that even when parties’ relationship and promise for property or support predates the amendment to statute requiring a palimony action to be in writing, but the claim is filed thereafter, the statute bars the claim. The trial court decision, Sharon Cavalli vs. Charles Arena, was approved for publication by New Jersey’s Committee on opinions.
From the decision it appears that the parties had a significant dating relationship. The couple began living together in 2001 and Mr. Arena gave Ms. Cavalli an engagement ring in 2002. There was trust document that gave Ms. Cavalli $250,000 over the course of five years when the Mr. Arena passed away. This trust agreement was executed by the parties in 2005 and then again in 2010. The couple lived together in Mr. Arena’s home for 11 years during which time Mr. Arena fully financially supported Ms. Cavalli. In fact Ms. Cavalli received a paycheck for a no-show job at Mr. Cavalli’s company. The parties held himself out as husband and wife and Ms. Cavalli performed customary in typical homemaker duties for Mr. Arena. Ms. Cavalli alleged that Mr. Arena orally promised to continue to support her financially. There was no written agreement for financial support between the parties.
The judge dismissed Ms. Cavalli’s claim for palimony because the promise for support was not reduced to writing and she filed her claim after January 18, 2010. Prior to the amendment of NJSA 25:1-5(h) (“the palimony statute”) a palimony claim based on the above facts would have been a contender for a palimony award from Mr. Arena. However, based on the change in the law and the lack of a written promise to pay the case was dismissed and Ms. Cavalli is unable to collect any support from Mr. Arena. This is true even though the relationship began and the alleged oral promise to support her was made prior to January 18, 2010.
The bottom line… If you want a promise for support to be enforceable it must be in writing. Our firm has experienced palimony lawyers. If you have a question regarding palimony or any other type of support contact the family law lawyers at DeMichele & DeMichele. Call today to schedule your confidential consultation (856) 546-1350.