Palimony Statute Ruled Constitutional Comes as no SurpriseAugust 3, 2016
A recent Chancery Division case upheld New Jersey’s new palimony statute as constitutional. The fact that the court upheld the palimony law as constitutional was not surprising, but it did confirm the shift away from the prior case of Devaney v. L’Esperance which held cohabitation was not necessary for a palimony claim and reinforced the requirement that palimony agreements be in writing. The case also criticized the Plaintiff for her frivolous claims and may serve as support for awarding sanctions in future cases where a plaintiff attempts to utilize creative arguments to circumvent the palimony statute.
The Plaintiff in the Chancery Division case of Lee v. Kim brought a suit against her ex-boyfriend and the Attorney General of New Jersey alleging a palimony claim and that the new palimony statute violated her rights to equal protection, privacy, and due process under the Constitution. Ms. Lee filed her suit after the conclusion of a two year relationship with Dr. Kim. Since the parties began dating after the enactment of the palimony statute, Ms. Lee’s claim for palimony was subject to the requirements of the statute; that the agreement be in writing and that the parties to the agreement be represented by counsel. However, Ms. Lee and Dr. Kim never entered into a written agreement. Therefore, Ms. Lee’s complaint for palimony was based solely on alleged oral promises made by Dr. Kim. The court denied each of Ms. Lee’s constitutional arguments and ultimately dismissed her complaint with prejudice.
The Lee v. Kim decision reflects the trend in family courts to limit protracted litigation and make valuable court time available for other cases. Today, with the shortage of judges in many of the family courts, access to a judge to determine issues such as palimony is limited. The court in the Lee matter dismissed Ms. Lee’s case on the papers without oral argument. The decision also sharply criticized Ms. Lee for wasting time and money with her frivolous palimony litigation. Many judges are reluctant to critique a lawyer’s creative litigation decision, so the opinion in Lee makes clear that courts are unwilling to indulge cases such as this and stands as a warning to other plaintiffs and attorneys.