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A Promise Is A Promise

In 2013 this firm addressed in this blog our State’s view on Palimony on three occasions. First, in “The State Of Palimony in the State of New Jersey“, Karen Willitts outlined the general law of palimony before and after the 2010 amendment to the “Statute of Frauds”, N.J.S.A. 25:1-5(h) which required palimony agreements to be in writing and the result of consultation with independent counsel to be binding agreements. Next, in “To Marry or Not Marry-Is There Still A Question“, Kevin Mazza addressed the unfairness of the Appellate Division’s decision in Maeker v Ross, 430 N.J. Super 79 ( App Div. 2013), in which the appellate court concluded that a cause of action for palimony accrued only when the support agreement was breached and as such if the breach occurs after the 2010 amendments to the Statute of Frauds would bar the claim “…regardless of the length of the relationship, the level of dependency or any other factor.” Id. Mr. Mazza went on to observe that under a case called McGee v. McGee 277 N.J. Super. 1 (App. Div. 1994), one is allowed to tack the period of premarital cohabitation to the period of the marriage to determine economic dependency creating different results for people living together dependent on whether they ultimately marry. Finally in, “Not So Fast: The Obituary of Palimony Demise May Be Premature”, Mr. Mazza advised that the Supreme Court of New Jersey granted Certification to review the Appellate Division decision in Maeker. He predicted that the Appellate Division decision would be overturned on Constitutional and equitable grounds.

On September 25, 2014, the Supreme Court released its decision in  Maeker v. Ross, __________N.J. _________( 2014), which reversed the decision of the Appellate Division. In Maeker, the Supreme Court found that to apply the January, 2010 amendment to the Statute of Frauds to agreements entered into before that date would do violence to agreements reached with the expectation that they were enforceable. Hence a general rule of Statutory Construction dictates that when a statute changes existing law, it should only be applied prospectively was applicable. Those who formed relationships prior to the amendment to the Statute of Frauds continue to have the benefit of their bargain. In New Jersey, it appears that a “promise is a promise” after all.