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Many a lover has uttered the words “you’ll be taken care of,” but it is now up to the New Jersey Supreme Court to decide whether such a statement carries the weight of a legitimate debt, like a contract, in a palimony case. The case argued on Sept. 10 revolves around the complicated personal life of Arthur Roccamonte Sr., a successful businessman. He was married with two children, but for the 30 years before his death in 1995, lived with another woman, Mary Sopko, in a luxury co-op apartment he bought for her in Glen Ridge, N.J. Roccamonte died intestate, and attorneys for Sopko and his children, Doreen Slackman and Arthur Roccamonte Jr., are at odds over whether Sopko, who is pursuing the palimony claim, should be entitled to a portion of his $1.4 million estate. In the Matter of the Estate of Arthur Roccamonte, A-75-01. Sopko, according to court papers, alleges that Roccamonte Sr. repeatedly told her during their relationship that while he could not divorce his wife because of the potential implications for his trucking business, she would not suffer financially. “I’ll take care of you,” she quoted him saying repeatedly to her and in front of others. “You’ll be taken care of,” he reportedly said on a number of occasions. The Appellate Division last year sided with Sopko, ruling that there should at least be a trial to determine whether promises were made and whether she should be entitled to a portion of the estate. After Roccamonte’s death, Sopko was given the co-op, the proceeds of a $10,000 life insurance policy and about $25,000 in jewelry. “We … recognize that … an agreement between adult parties living together is enforceable to the extent it is not based on a relationship proscribed by law, or on a promise to marry,” wrote Appellate Division Judge Howard Kestin. The children’s lawyer, Union, N.J., solo practitioner Joel Seltzer, asked the justices to overturn the Appellate Division’s ruling. “New Jersey at this time has not fully formulated what should constitute palimony,” he said, noting that two trial judges had dismissed Sopko’s claims on summary judgment grounds. “The amorphous promise of ‘I’ll take care of you’ is not sufficient to form the basis for future support,” he said. Justice James Coleman Jr. said it appeared to him that Roccamonte Sr. may have entered into what amounted to an oral contract with Sopko to provide her with financial support after his death. Seltzer disagreed. “The reality in these relationships is that people engage in this type of conduct, but they don’t go into a lawyer’s office” to negotiate a contract. Besides, had Roccamonte Sr. intended to provide Sopko with financial support after his death, he could have left a will that allowed for that. “Mr. Roccamonte remained married” until his death, said Seltzer. “The lack of a will allows the estate to pass to his wife, and that was his intention.” Sopko’s lawyer, Michael Breslin, urged the New Jersey Supreme Court to uphold the Appellate Division, but asked that it do so quickly. Sopko is 77, and because the case has dragged on for seven years she has had to sell the co-op and move in with her sister, he said. “Seven years is a long time to obtain justice,” said Breslin, a partner at Secaucus, N.J.’s Waters, McPherson, McNeill. Coleman asked why the estate was obligated to pay Sopko. “This is just like a contract,” said Breslin. “It’s a legitimate debt.” Coleman also asked whether there were any public policy implications about the issue of palimony after death. “I don’t think this is an area of public concern,” said Breslin. “This should be treated just like any other contract.”

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