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If two people have been in a long-term relationship but were never married, the issue of palimony may arise when they decide to split. Similar to alimony in divorce cases, this could occur if the couple separates and one former partner requests financial support from the other.

This is a complicated issue in New Jersey because the state does not allow common law marriages. Thus, unmarried couples cannot attain the same benefits as married partners, even if they have lived together for 10 or 20 years. When these types of couples separate, the process of dividing assets and property, for example, is much different and more complex.

When it comes to palimony, until about four years ago it was a common practice of New Jersey courts to recognize these claims, as long as the individual seeking palimony offered sufficient evidence that he or she deserved support payments. But in 2010 the state passed a law restricting palimony, and now, courts may only award it if there was an agreement in writing signed by both partners. Furthermore, there must be an attorney present when these documents are drafted and signed.

Since passage of the 2010 law, there have been several legal challenges related to palimony, and the future of the practice is still up in the air. For now, couples in long-term relationships should understand that the state's equitable distribution law applies only to divorces and that there is no such thing as shared property between non-married partners.

If you and your former partner are experiencing challenges with issues of property division and palimony after separating, consult an experienced New Jersey family law attorney for guidance.

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