The Real Truth about Recovering Money After a Broken Relationship


In some ways, it was love at first sight.  The two of you met at a local restaurant.  Before you knew it, your romance was hot and heavy.  Within a few weeks, you moved in together.   You added him to your cell phone bill as your plan was cheaper.   In fact, you even loaned him money.  However, things happened too fast, and you now find yourself in a broken relationship.  What are the odds that you’ll recover some of that money?

More than likely, you’re already feeling foolish that you made seemingly impulsive decisions.  However, you are not alone.  If it’s any consolation to you, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development finds that cohabitation is a common occurrence.  Truth be told, a high percentage of potential brides and grooms live together before they officially tie the knot.

In the meantime, research shows that cohabitation is even more stressful than marriage.  Perhaps it is that there is an easier out.  Despite that, some unmarried couples may feel confident in their relationships and therefore think nothing of sharing their assets.  They figure if their relationships end, they easily resolve issues or count on the courts for intervention.  In reality, equitable distribution only applies to married couples.

Notwithstanding, there is one exception to the idea that money could become an issue with couples who are in romantic relationships and are unmarried.  Ironically, the law on palimony falls under New Jersey’s Statute of Frauds.  According to the statute, promises may be made as far as support when non-marital personal relationships end.  However, they must be in writing, and both parties must have separate legal counsel.  

Broken Relationships and Recovering Money

All things considered, there’s a good chance you don’t even have an expectation that your former lover has some responsibility to make support payments.  You may be more concerned that you loaned money or bought furniture in your name.  Maybe you’re worried that he or she failed to pay their share of a utility bill.

New Jersey courts have spoken on this matter.  Consider the unpublished legal decision of Digna v. Fernandez-Virgilio.  The fact that the court document is unpublished means that it only applies to the named parties.  Nevertheless, it offers some valuable insight into what happens when a romantic couple splits and feels they are due money.

In this case, the couple was involved in a romantic relationship for approximately five or six months.  They did live together, although the length of their cohabitation is unclear.  However, Lara Digna was able to produce bank statements showing she paid many household expenses.  Although Lara also claimed that she loaned her boyfriend money, the court did not find that she was able to provide the necessary evidence.

A review of the court decision does not indicate why the couple split up.   However, the court ruled that Digna was not entitled to recover money.  The basis of the denial was that Lara was seeking “damages for alienation of affections.”

Why is this an issue? According to NJSA 2A:23-1, specific causes of action are precluded by law.  In fact, the statute explicitly states the following: “the rights of action formerly existing to recover sums of money as damage for the alienation of affections, criminal conversation, seduction or breach of contract to marry are abolished from and after June 27, 1935.”

Meanwhile, before you cut your losses if you are facing a similar situation, you should always speak with an experienced family law attorney.

Contact Us

At the Law Offices of Sam Stoia, we are available to provide legal counsel regarding your concerns.   Contact our offices to set up a meeting to learn more about the law and cases involving married and unmarried couples.