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Family Law, Monthly Newsletter

Important Family Law Update

Recent Pre-Nuptial and Other Statute Changes
On June 28, 2013, Governor Christie created a change in the law regarding pre-nuptial agreements. Historically, pre-nuptial agreements were analyzed at the time of enforcement. If the agreement was grossly unfair or “unconscionable,” the agreement could be avoided. The essence of the change is that a prenuptial agreement will be viewed as unconscionable, and therefore unenforceable, only in the case that it is deemed unconscionable at the time of execution.

Palimony Changes in New Jersey

The law regarding unmarried couples is fast developing and will be an oft visited topic here. The basic premise of palimony is a promise of support for life, between two people that are not married to each other. In New Jersey, the Supreme Court analyzed and accepted the concept of palimony in the Kozlowski case in 1979. Palimony cases have been vigorously litigated over the past 30 plus years. In 2010, the New Jersey Legislature stepped in and modified the Statute of Frauds to provide that a promise of support for life would only be enforceable if in writing. This change in law was immediately litigated and the courts found that those cases litigated prior to the statute change would be unaffected. More recently, in Maeker v. Ross, the Appellate Division found that palimony claims brought after the statute change would be subject to the writing requirement, regardless of the duration of the relationship.

Economic Mediation

In the late 1990’s, changes to the Court Rules modified the procedure by which divorcing couples moved through the system. Among the most significant changes was the imposition of mandatory mediation, also referred to as Economic Mediation. Economic Mediation is distinct from other mediation formats in that the litigants enjoy one hour of free preparation time and one hour of free live mediation time by the mediator. before going on the clock. Fifteen years later, practitioners are nearly unanimous in their appreciation of the Economic Mediation model. Many practitioners initially balked at the idea of mandatory mediation. Lawyers feared that their independence and compensation would be replaced by court ordered mediation.

The procedure has worked well. It has helped to facilitate a pro-mediation and creative alternate dispute resolution environment for all practitioners. Economic Mediation was initially opposed by then State Bar Family Law section leader, Neal Rosen, who stood at the bar meeting and forcefully expressed that no practitioner should be forced to lose his or her livelihood as a result of forced mediation. Although it took some time, the mediation model has been largely embraced. The model continues to expand as more and more cases are introduced into mediation and arbitration earlier in the process and as more practitioners incorporate mediation and arbitration into their practice