Unmarried Relationships

1. Is there a “common law” marriage in New Jersey?

There was a time when living together in a long-term relationship and acting as husband and wife was considered under the law to be equal to marriage. That was called common law marriage and it was abolished by statute in New Jersey in 1939. Since common law marriage ended, there are no longer any laws with guidelines for determining whether support should be awarded from one unmarried partner to another when their long-term relationship ends.

A common law marriage is one in which the parties have lived together for a long period of time, and they hold themselves out to the public as husband and wife. New Jersey does not recognize any so called “common law” marriage. This is a type of relationship wherein the couple lives together buy have no participated in a full ceremony. Unlike some other states, in New Jersey a couple cannot acquire marital rights and responsibility by simply living together for a particular period of time.

Although the social mores have changed greatly since common law marriage was abolished, neither the New Jersey Legislature nor the courts have re-instituted common law marriage. Unmarried cohabitants are treated differently from a spouse in a number of significant ways. They do not have the same status as a spouse in regard to the worker’s compensation and insurance benefits of their partners, they cannot inherit by intestate succession, and they are not allowed to recover fro wrongful death under the Wrongful Death Act.

2. What is palimony?

Since the early 1970′s, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people who live together without getting married. Despite this trend, unmarried couples do not have the same rights and protections as married couples. However, the courts have finally begun to recognize that, in certain situations, an unmarried person may have a right to get financial support from a former partner after their relationship ends.

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