“If any practical legal principle can be extracted from the gnarled facts of Bayne v. Johnson v. Johnson, it is probably this: You can’t get palimony if you cohabit with a married man and his wealthy, elderly wife and then leave him because he won’t leave her.” (Michael Booth, “When Palimony’s at Stake, Three’s a Crowd”, New Jersey Law Journal, Oct. 28).
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.
Through the rise of palimony law, courts in New Jersey have laid out a bright line against its being awarded in cases where a couple did not live together. Now, however, the state’s high court is being urged to overturn that rule and open the door to claims for compensation by a broader class of romantic partners (Michael Booth, “N.J. High Court Hears Pitch for Palimony Sans Cohabitation”, New Jersey Law Journal, Jan. 23). Two years ago an appellate judge upheld the bar to recovery:
“Without such a bright-line requirement, the concept of ‘marital-type’ relationship is unacceptably vulnerable to duplicitous manipulation,” Judge Jose Fuentes wrote in Levine v. Konvitz. “Requiring cohabitation also provides a measure of advance notice and warning, to both parties to a relationship, and to their respective family members, that legal and financial consequences may result.”
(Michael Booth, “Despite 70-Year Romance, Palimony Is Denied for Lack of Cohabitation”, NJLJ, Feb. 17, 2006).