Articles Posted in civil union

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While the U.S. Supreme Court has declared that same sex marriage is now legal all across the country, the states are still addressing with the newly accepted concept of a family in other contexts aslimo-suv-wreck-300x225 well.  This is demonstrated in the recent published opinion of the Appellate Division in Moreland v. Parks, A-4754-16, which was decided on August 17, 2018.   In this matter, Valerie Benning and I’Asia Moreland were a same sex couple.  Ms. Benning was living with Ms. Moreland and her two children, along with Ms. Benning’s godson.  After leaving a Disney on Ice show at the Sun Bank Arts Center in Trenton, the couple witnessed a pick-up truck hit Ms. Moreland’s two year old daughter, I’Maya, and kill her.    Ms. Moreland and Ms. Benning were not married.   Ms. Benning and Ms. Moreland filed a civil suit, which included a count by Ms. Benning for bystander negligent infliction of emotional distress.  The trial court dismissed Ms. Benning’s claim for bystander negligent infliction of emotional distress on the basis that she did not present enough evidence of an “intimate familial relationship” with the the child to bring a claim under Portee v. Jaffee, 84 N.J. 88 (1980).

Ms. Benning was not married to Ms. Moreland, who was I’Maya’s mother.  Ms. Benning was not biologically related to I’Maya, nor did she have custodial rights.  She began dating Ms. Moreland in 2007 and began to live with Ms. Moreland and her children in 2008.   Within a few months, both of Ms. Moreland’s children began referring to Ms. Benning as “Mom”.   I’Maya was killed in 2009.  Ms. Benning and Ms. Moreland became engaged in 2011 and they married in 2014.   A psychologist who evaluated Ms. Moreland’s son, I’Zhir, noted that he considered Ms. Benning and her godson members of his family, and that he felt safest when with his two mothers and his grandmother.   Two year old I’Maya was holding Ms. Benning’s hand in January, 2009 to cross the street when she was struck by the truck and killed.  Ms. Benning’s godson’s legs and ankles were broken in the accident as well.   In the ambulance after the incident, Ms. Benning was able to describe to the paramedics I’Maya’s medical history. I’Zhir told hospital staff that he had two mothers.   Ms. Benning was so distraught when told of I’Maya’s death that the hospital had to put her in restraints.  Benning helped pay for I’Maya’s funeral and borrowed money from her family to help pay for it.

The trial court referred to Ms. Benning and Ms. Moreland as lovers, but found that the case of Portee v. Jaffee requires a showing of an intimate family relationship, not merely an intimate relationship.   The trial judge rejected the contention that Ms. Benning was a psychological parent to I’Maya.  The trial judge noted that in the case of Dunphy v. Gregor, 136 N.J. 99 (1994), a decedent’s fiance was permitted to bring a claim for bystander negligent infliction of emotional distress.  However, the trial judge distinguished this matter because Ms. Moreland and Ms. Benning had not been engaged at the time of the I’Maya’s death, and he found no evidence of a permanent bond between them or one that was “deep, lasting and genuinely intimate.”

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In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state in the United States to recognize same sex marriage.  Numerous states thus enact differing laws regarding the ability of same sex couples to marry infile000224065590-300x200 their states, with numerous states  passing laws to ban same sex marriage, and various states over the years, voting to allow same sex marriage.  Some states began to allow same sex couples to enter into “civil unions”.  New Jersey did so in 2006.  In 2012, Governor Chris Christie vetoed a potential law in New Jersey that would have allowed same sex marriage. Continue reading

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The Appellate Division this past week approved another decision by family court judge, Hon. Lawrence R. Jones, J.S.C., this time in the matter of Groh-v-Groh, which was decided back in March, 2014.  The parties in this case are a same sex couple who entered into a civil union in 2008, which they wished to end by 2014.   With the advice of independent matrimonial counsel, they entered into a written settlement agreement of their issues, and submitted a dual judgment of dissolution that would end their civil union on the grounds of irreconcilable differences.   Continue reading

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bill has passed the New Jersey Senate and Assembly and which is now before the governor that intends to amend the current alimony statute, N.J.S.A. 2A34-23.   At present, the alimony statute allows a court to consider (1) permanent alimony; (2) limited duration alimony; (3) rehabilitative alimony; and (4) reimbursement alimony.   Under permanent alimony, there is technically no end to alimony until the payor or payee spouse dies or the payee spouse remarries.   The new proposed alimony statute would replace “permanent alimony” with “open durational” alimony. Continue reading

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In a recent blog post, I discussed how U.S. v. Windsor, 570 US 7 (2013), in striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) laid into question what the New Jersey Legislature’s response might be to the New Jersey Supreme Court’s directive in Lewis v. Harris 188 N.J. 415 (2006). Continue reading

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girlsThe case of US v. Windsor, 570 U.S. 7, (2013),  decided on the last day of the United States   Supreme Court’s term on June 26, 2013, declared unconstitutional certain provisions of Bill Clinton’s landmark legislation, the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, commonly referred to as “DOMA”.  Continue reading