What is Common Law Marriage?
A common law marriage occurs when a couple in a long term relationship have lived together and presented themselves as husband and wife despite never partaking in an official ceremony or obtaining a marriage license. Many states have considered common law marriage to be the equivalent of marriage and are held to the same legal obligations that officially married couples agree to.
Is Common Law Marriage Recognized in New Jersey?
No. In 1939, New Jersey put a law into effect that eliminated common law marriage. The full text of this law can be found under N.J.S.A. 37:1-10. The only way to be officially married in the state of New Jersey is to get a valid marriage license and have a ceremony performed by an official party whether it be a person, institution, society or organization. Failure to do either of these things will result in the marriage being void.
Do Partners Have Any Special Rights if They are Unmarried?
Since common law marriage isn’t officially an option in New Jersey, it can be a bit unclear as to what rights unmarried couples have if they live together. Knowing what specific rights you have will make it easier to decide whether there is any legal ground for you to stand on if a dispute arises.
In New Jersey, if you want the rights of a married couple you need to be married. Living together for an extended period of time isn’t the equivalent of legal marriage. If you and your partner split up but you were never legally married, you will not have the rights that a married couple going through a divorce have. There will be no equitable division of property or financial support requirements for either person in an unmarried couple. However, there are still options if you have financial issues after a breakup, and of course child support and parenting time is still an issue if you have children together.
What is Palimony?
Palimony is financial support that an unmarried person can request after separating from their partner. Claims can also be brought up against the estate of a deceased person in order to get financial help after the death of a partner. The term derives from the marriage equivalent which is commonly known as alimony.
Is Palimony an Option in New Jersey?
In 2010, New Jersey courts restricted the ability to request palimony in order to defend people against fraudulent requests. Whereas before it was much easier to present palimony claims to the court, now the law states that palimony can only be paid under the following conditions:
- Agreement to provide financial support must be in writing
- Must be signed by the person agreeing to provide financial support
- Both parties must reach agreement under advice of their own separate attorneys
The law explicitly states that no claim shall be brought to court unless the agreement is in writing. If your partner agrees to pay financial support in the event of a breakup or upon his or her death, you should talk to them and get it down in writing. Because of the general uncertainty regarding palimony cases, it is beneficial to seek out an attorney before moving forward with any claims.
Have Questions/Concerns Regarding Common Law Marriage or Palimony Cases?
If you are looking to discuss a case regarding the rights of two unmarried persons living together for an extended period of time and seek support, distribution of jointly acquired assets, child support and parenting time, contact Himelman & Himelman today for a consultation.