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SSDMD Successfully Argues in the New Jersey Supreme Court (Again)

By Snyder Sarno D'Aniello Maceri & da Costa LLC on March 10, 2022


We previously blogged about SSDMD Partner Angelo Sarno’s argument before the New Jersey Supreme Court in Moynihan v. Lynch, a case in which Kathleen Moynihan was seeking to enforce a written palimony agreement that she entered into with Mr. Lynch after the 2010 amendment to the Statute of Frauds, but not in strict compliance with the Statute’s requirement that they each have independent legal counsel. Instead, Ms. Moynihan and Mr. Lynch signed the written palimony agreement in the presence of a Notary Public. We are pleased to report that Mr. Sarno was successful in arguing that the requirement of independent legal counsel is unconstitutional.

In Moynihan, Mr. Sarno argued that Ms. Moynihan entered into a long-term marital-type relationship with Mr. Lynch. Toward the conclusion of the relationship, sometime after the 2010 amendment to the Statute of Frauds, Mr. Lynch drafted a handwritten agreement setting forth how their financial relationship would be governed after the demise of their relationship. Ms. Moynihan and Mr. Lynch then executed that handwritten agreement in the presence of a Notary Public.

After the demise of their relationship, Ms. Moynihan filed a complaint seeking, among other things, to enforce the handwritten agreement, arguing that the requirement of independent legal counsel was unconstitutional. Mr. Lynch argued that the handwritten agreement was unenforceable because neither party had independent legal counsel as required. The trial court declined to declare the requirement of independent legal counsel unconstitutional, but still enforced the handwritten agreement as an agreement that did not need to comply with the 2010 amendment to the Statute of Frauds. However, the Appellate Division reversed, concurring that the requirement of independent legal counsel was constitutional, and declaring the handwritten agreement unenforceable because neither party had independent legal counsel. In the end, the New Jersey Supreme Court reversed again, finding that the requirement of independent legal counsel infringed on an individual’s personal autonomy and was unconstitutional. As a result, Ms. Moynihan achieved the result that she sought: the handwritten agreement was enforced, and the law was changed to protect others in a similar situation.

This is not the first time that Mr. Sarno has successfully argued a palimony issue before the New Jersey Supreme Court. In 2014, Mr. Sarno successfully argued Maeker v. Ross, a case in which the New Jersey Supreme Court decided that the 2010 amendment to the Statute of Frauds did not apply retroactively to bar palimony agreements that were entered into before the amendment. As a result, oral and written palimony agreements entered before the amendment remain enforceable.

If you have any questions or concerns about palimony in your New Jersey family law matters, please contact the experienced attorneys at SSDMD at (973) 274-5200.

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