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Crowe v. De Gioia

Supreme Court of New Jersey

January 12, 1981, Argued ; July 8, 1982, Decided



 [*129]  [**174]   The basic issue on this appeal is whether temporary relief can be awarded in a suit to enforce an agreement between unmarried cohabitants. The Chancery Division awarded interim support and other relief to plaintiff, Rose K. Crowe. With one judge dissenting, the Appellate Division vacated the support order and remanded the case for trial in the Law Division. Crowe v. DeGioia, 179 N.J. Super. 36 (1981). We granted leave to appeal from that interlocutory order and reinstated temporary relief during the pendency of this appeal. 87 N.J. 412 (1981). We now reverse the Appellate Division, thereby continuing the [***2]  temporary relief pending the outcome of the underlying action, which we remand to the Chancery Division.

In a verified complaint filed in the Chancery Division, plaintiff, Rose K. Crowe (who states she is also known as Rose K. De Gioia), claimed that defendant, Sergio De Gioia, breached his non-marital agreement to  [**175]  support her for life. Her complaint alleged the following facts pertaining to their twenty-year relationship. She met De Gioia in February 1960 when she was 38 and separated from her husband, whom she has since divorced. She was the mother of seven children ranging in age from five to seventeen years. He was 26 and single. Starting in 1960, she and her children lived with and were supported by him. From 1967 to 1980, when De Gioia left, they lived in his house in Perth Amboy. Most significantly, he declared that "he would take care of her and support her for the rest of her life, and that he would share with her his various assets."

In return for his support, she acted like his wife: cooking, cleaning, caring for him when he was ill, helping in his various business ventures, and accompanying him socially. Their relationship was akin to a marriage.  [***3]  Even at the end of their relationship, when De Gioia told her he was leaving to marry a woman 22 years his junior, he promised to give her a "good  [*130]  settlement" so that she would not have to be concerned with her own support. That settlement, however, did not materialize. Crowe asked the court to enforce her alleged agreement with De Gioia for support, to compensate her for her services, and to award her a share of his assets, costs and counsel fees.

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90 N.J. 126 *; 447 A.2d 173 **; 1982 N.J. LEXIS 2154 ***; 35 A.L.R.4th 394


Prior History:  [***1]  On appeal from the Superior Court, Appellate Division, whose opinion is reported at 179 N.J. Super. 36 (1981).

Disposition: Reversed and Remanded.


Chancery, temporary relief, parties, equitable, pendente lite, injunction, trial court, alimony, damages, unmarried cohabitant, preliminary relief, status quo, the Law, principles, restrained, marriage, interim relief, live together, irreparable, divorce, plenary, cases, matrimonial action, temporarily, married, promise, lived

Family Law, Marital Termination & Spousal Support, Spousal Support, General Overview, Governments, Courts, Common Law, Cohabitation, Dissolution & Divorce, Obligations, Periodic Support, Temporary Support, Civil Procedure, Preliminary Considerations, Equity, Irreparable Injury, Remedies, Damages, Monetary Damages, Injunctions, Preliminary & Temporary Injunctions, Agreements, Enforceability, Equitable Theories, Real Property Law, Types of Damages, Compensatory Damages, Settlement Agreements, Enforcement, Settlements, Costs & Attorney Fees, Authority to Adjudicate, Contracts Law, Equitable Relief, Specific Performance