Eric S. Solotoff To Argue Before the New Jersey Supreme Court in Novel Palimony Case

April 30, 2014 – Press Releases

Eric S. Solotoff, co-chair of the Family Law Practice at Fox Rothschild LLP, will argue before the New Jersey Supreme Court on May 5, 2014, in the precedential case of Maeker v. Ross. This landmark case may alter the way palimony cases are handled in New Jersey.

The court of will decide whether oral support agreements between non-married parties can be enforced, despite a January 2010 legislation that required such agreements to be made in writing.

In this particular case, Maeker and Ross had been involved in a marital-type relationship for more than 10 years. New Jersey however, does not allow for common law marriage. Maeker claimed that Ross made oral promises of lifetime support.

In the 2010 hearing, the legislature passed an amendment to the statute of frauds that required palimony agreements to be in writing and further stated that no action for palimony shall be brought unless the agreement was in writing. The Appellate Division quite definitively interpreted the legislative intent of the amendment to preclude any palimony suits brought after the amendment, unless there was a written agreement that complied with the amendment, even if the relationship and alleged promise for support predated the amendment.

In this case, the parties resided together and Ross provided support and other financial benefits Maeker. There was, however, no joint property or joint accounts and nothing other than insignificant joint financial ties.

Originally, the trial judge allowed the claim for palimony to continue based upon an implied promise of support. Upon appeal, the Appellate Division made clear that this claim had to be filed before the effective date of the amendment to the statute of frauds. Otherwise, it was barred. However, in this case, the claim did not accrue until after the statute was enacted.

The complaint here was filed 18 months after the enactment of the statute where the parties remained together and were in a position to execute a written palimony agreement and establish compliance with the Amendment. That never happened. Rather, while Ross did execute a will and power of attorney late in the relationship, the Appellate Division held that neither document, as a matter of law, evidences any intent or promise of lifetime support.

Finally, because the Appellate Division determined that Maeker’s claim for palimony was barred by the Amendment and her equitable claims lack merit, she was not entitled to pendente lite support nor an award of counsel fees. The result was that the trial court decision was reversed and remanded for entry of judgment dismissing plaintiff's complaint with prejudice.