Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Case Law Development: Cohabitation Required For Palimony Suit

The New Jersey Court of Appeals held that, no matter how long-term or committed a romantic relationship might be, without a period of cohabitation, neither party can state a claim for palimony.  The facts of the case involved an 70-year extramarital romantic relationship.  The parties had never lived together, largely because one or the other was married to another during most of that time. Near the end of defendant's life, plaintiff brought a suit to enforce his alleged promise of livetime support. The trial court dismissed plaintiff's case, finding that any promise of support made by defendant was unenforceable, because the parties had never cohabitated in a marital-type relationship. The court of appeals affirmed.

The court held that "In order to establish a prima facie case for palimony, a plaintiff must present competent evidence showing: (1) that the parties cohabitated; (2) in a marriage-type relationship; (3) that, during this period of cohabitation, defendant promised plaintiff that he/she would support him/her for life; and (4) that this promise was made in exchange for valid consideration."  The court reasoned that "Requiring cohabitation as an element of a palimony action ... 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 from that relationship. In this context, cohabitation requires the demonstrable act of setting up a household together. Thus, in contrast to an extramarital affair, even a long-term one, cohabitation announces to the ones most affected by the existence of the relationship, the innocent spouse and dependent children, that defendant has entered into a relationship that may result in significant and long-term impairment of family assets."

Levine v. Konvitz, 2006 N.J. Super. LEXIS 25 (February 6, 2006)bgf

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