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Mangone v. Mangone

Decided: May 3, 1985.

SUSAN J. MANGONE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JESSE G. MANGONE, DEFENDANT



Sorkow, P.J.F.P.

Sorkow

This is defendant's motion to dismiss so much of plaintiff's complaint that asks for enforcement of an alleged lifetime support contract which was made during the parties six years of premarital cohabitation and for equitable distribution of property acquired during said period of premarital cohabitation. Defendant argues that both of plaintiff's prayers for relief fail to set forth a cause of action upon which relief can be granted. In the alternative, defendant seeks a partial summary judgment as to the two subject prayers for relief.

The parties began a relationship with each other in the summer of 1975. Plaintiff was a nurse and defendant was then a medical student. Their relationship developed during the next two years. In August 1977, they both moved into a residence in East Rutherford, Bergen County, New Jersey. Their wedding to each other occurred in August 1981. Until then, the parties shared living quarters and incomes. Plaintiff alleges it was her money that sustained the parties while defendant used his earnings to acquire valuable personalty and real property. In December 1982, plaintiff filed her action for divorce.

AS TO EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION

It appears that plaintiff seeks to enforce an alleged contract for lifetime support and a sharing of assets acquired prior to the marriage. Plaintiff seeks to expand the concept of the nonmarital "palimony" contract found in Kozlowski v. Kozlowski, 80 N.J. 378 (1979) and Crowe v. DeGioia, 90 N.J. 126 (1982), by seeking equitable distribution of property legally and beneficially acquired by defendant during the period of time the parties lived together. She seeks to do so based on principles of equity.

The basis of entitlement to equitable distribution is founded on statute and its application is thus limited. Plaintiff's complaint in this regard fails because such premarital acquired property is immune from equitable distribution. The statute is clear and its application since adoption leaves no doubt that property separately owned at the time of the marriage remains the property of the then owner and is not subject to equitable distribution. N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23; N.J.S.A. 37:2-12; Painter v. Painter, 65 N.J. 196 (1974); Capodanno v. Capodanno, 58 N.J. 113, 119 (1971). Equitable distribution is a remedy that is solely the creature of the Legislature. It is created and defined by statute. The interpretation that plaintiff would attach to the statute goes beyond the plain meaning of the statute's language. This court will not and cannot disturb the law's language and the growing line of cases that have defined equitable distribution beginning with Painter v. Painter, supra, by adding to distributive property that which was acquired prior to marriage when the parties lived together.

The Supreme Court of New Jersey has not recognized the outlawed common law marriage by its decisions in Crowe and Kozlowski, supra. As Judge Debevoise in Anastasi v. Anastasi, 532 F. Supp. 720 (D.N.J.1982) stated:

At most, if there is a contract, plaintiff is limited to proof of damages for breach thereof and not to any equitable distribution of pre-marital acquired property. Prayer "E" of the complaint will therefore be dismissed for failure to set forth a claim upon which relief may be granted.

AS TO THE CONTRACT FOR LIFETIME SUPPORT

That "living together" relationships exist is a fact of our society. The marriage contract is being diluted and subject to an epidemic level of attack. "Standards of conduct change. Today's innovations have a way of becoming tomorrow's conventional

wisdom." DeVita v. DeVita, 145 N.J. Super. 120, 131 (App.Div.1976) (Antell, J.A.D.). Indeed, many accepted mores have been and are being tested and modified. Such is the way of dynamic society. Plaintiff would have this court support her position and make a ...


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