New Jersey high court: palimony without cohabitation OK

by Walter Olson on June 18, 2008

Courts up to now have maintained a bright-line rule of not entertaining palimony claims unless a couple has cohabited, such a rule significantly improving people’s degree of certainty about which former romantic partners might suddenly emerge with a financial claim. But of course when you have bright-line rules of this sort, not as many people get to sue, so the New Jersey high court has now made itself the first state high court to overthrow the rule, inviting claims where the totality of the facts and circumstances “would cause one of the partners to believe a relationship existed, that it was similar to a marriage,” to quote Chatham, N.J. lawyer Alan Zegas (Tom Hester, “Palimony ruling sets precedent in Jersey”, Star-Ledger; NJLJ; AP/Cherry Hill Courier-Post*). Earlier here.

* Okay, there you go, AP, I didn’t quote even the five words from your story. But you also notice I gave the Star-Ledger first billing.


1 OBQuiet 06.18.08 at 1:21 pm

I’ve never understood what “Totality of the facts and circumstances” that lacked a rather specific “I DO” would make one think they were in a relationship similar to marriage.

I guess I just need a brighter line than most to make upp for not being bright myself.

2 Ted Frank 06.18.08 at 1:58 pm

If I didn’t have eight other planned law review articles in my queue not getting written, and if it weren’t such a trivial issue, I’d write a piece on how the palimony cause-of-action is the back-door resuscitation of the discredited heartbalm statutes of old.

3 Walter Olson 06.18.08 at 2:12 pm

But of course not trivial to those it affects.

4 Bob Neal 06.18.08 at 3:13 pm

Even worse than heart balm statutes (alienation of affection and criminal conversation) which affect recognized marriages.

Here, every break-up involves some implied contract and a question of fact precluding summary judgment. This should be called the “full employment for family lawyers doctrine.”

5 Shtetl G 06.18.08 at 3:59 pm

This post reminded me of the lyrics of an old Charlie Parker/Tiny Grimes tune:

Romance without finance is a nuisance
Baby, you know I need me some gold
Romance without finance just don’t make sense
Mama, mama, please give up that gold
You so great and you so fine
You ain’t got no money you can’t be mine
It ain’t no joke to be stone broke
Baby, you know I’d lie when I say
Romance without finance is a nuisance
Please please baby give me some gold

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