Arons & Solomon | July 13, 2018 | Articles
Marriage is not for everyone. Some couples spend years in a long-term committed relationship, acting as a married couple but without the ceremony and certificate.
These relationships are generally referred to as “common law marriages,” and the rights and protections surrounding them vary by state.
Does New Jersey Have Common Law Marriage?
No. According to N.J.S.A. 37:1-10, the State of New Jersey outlawed common law marriage in 1939. Common law marriages established before 1939 are grandfathered in under the old law, but relationships after 1939 require a marriage license and ceremony compliant with New Jersey law to be considered a valid marriage.
Can I Request Alimony Without Being Married?
Equitable distribution and spousal support laws do not apply to unmarried couples. It is possible to receive financial support from an unwed companion, but the results vary widely from case to case.
When a long-term unwed couple breaks up (or one partner passes away), the subsequent request for financial support has been nicknamed “palimony.” All palimony requests are processed through the New Jersey family court system.
There are no written laws on palimony agreements, only legal precedent established by prior court decisions. Obtaining palimony support is possible if the requesting party can demonstrate two things:
- The other partner made a promise to provide financial support in the relationship
- The requesting party cannot support themselves independently from the other party’s income
Palimony support became more challenging to acquire in 2010, after the New Jersey Legislature determined the promise of financial support must have been previously put into writing and signed by the promiser under the supervision of legal counsel.
If you began a long-term unmarried relationship before 2010, there is a chance you may still be eligible to collect palimony. If you are beginning a long-term unmarried relationship right now, it is critical for both parties to outline their expectations in a written cohabitation agreement under the guidance of an experienced family law attorney.
How Do We Split Up Property if We Aren’t Married?
Property disputes for unwed couples are settled in New Jersey family court, which is a “court of equity.” This means a judge is tasked with applying the principle of fairness to the best of his/her ability.
Since there is no written law addressing the equitable distribution of property for unwed couples, the court must use its own subjective judgment. Judges will consider whether the couple had shared bank accounts and credit cards, whether both names are on property deeds, and other evidence the couple established a “joint venture” together.
The judge will decide how property is divided, or in some cases, order it to be sold with profits divided equally among parties.
To avoid the heartache of losing your most cherished worldly possessions, establish a written cohabitation agreement under the guidance of an experienced family law attorney.
What is a Cohabitation Agreement?
A “cohabitation agreement” is a written contract that establishes important legal and economic guidelines surrounding a long-term unmarried relationship. Like a prenuptial agreement, the cohabitation agreement is created to protect the personal and financial interests of both parties in the event of a breakup.
A properly drafted and signed agreement will likely withstand any future legal challenge. A cohabitation agreement can prevent future time, money, and stress surrounding the issues of partner support, division of assets, and child custody and visitation.
Hire a New Jersey Family Lawyer
New Jersey cohabitation agreements are governed by complex laws and requirements. If done incorrectly, the validity of these agreements can and will be challenged in court.
Arons & Solomon holds decades of experience in drafting, reviewing, and litigating cohabitation agreements. We can make sure your agreement is fully compliant under New Jersey state law and protects your best interests.