Supreme Court Endorses Alimony Termination for Cohabitation Based on Contract Law

By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a Freehold, NJ Contract Law Attorney

The New Jersey Supreme Court recently ruled that a divorce agreement that calls for the termination of alimony if an ex-spouse cohabitates with another person, even if that cohabitation is temporary, is enforceable.

The court majority upheld a property settlement agreement that mandated the termination of alimony for a woman who lived with another man for a little more than two years after she divorced her husband of 23 years.

“Marital agreements, including property settlement agreements that clearly and unequivocally provide for the termination of alimony upon cohabitation, are enforceable when the parties enter such agreements knowingly and voluntarily,” said the court.

“A settlement agreement is governed by basic contract principles,” added the justices. “It is not the function of the court to rewrite or revise an agreement when the intent of the parties is clear.

“The parties cannot expect a court to make them a better contract or a different contract from the agreement they struck between themselves. When the intent of the parties is plain and the language is clear and unambiguous, a court must enforce the agreement as written, unless doing so would lead to an absurd result. In light of the parties’ agreement that alimony would terminate upon cohabitation, the circumstances here do not call for a different result.

The take away of the case was best summed up by the chief justice. “We reiterate today that an agreement to terminate alimony upon cohabitation by fully informed parties, represented by independent counsel, and without any evidence of overreaching, fraud, or coercion is enforceable.”

So, a contract is a contract, is a contract is a contract!

To discuss your NJ Contract Law matter, please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at fniemann@hnlawfirm.com.  Please ask us about our video conferencing consultations if you are unable to come to our office.