Sesame Street's 'Gordon' Ordered to Pay Palimony

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on September 26, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

For one "Sesame Street" actor, the letter P is for palimony. A New Jersey judge ordered Roscoe Orman, best known to kiddies as "Gordon," to continue paying palimony to the mother of his four children.

But what is palimony and what makes this ruling such a landmark decision?


Palimony is court-ordered financial support from one person to another when a long-term, non-marital relationship ends. Think "alimony for unmarried people."

In most cases, palimony is awarded to a person who depended financially on the other person, relying on express or implied promises that his or her significant other would support him or her financially for the rest of their lives.

Until recently, oral palimony agreements were legally enforceable in New Jersey.

But in 2010, the New Jersey legislature amended its Statute of Frauds requiring that palimony agreements be reduced to writing under the advice of attorneys.

Performance Exception?

To the devastation of Bert and Ernie, 71-year-old "Gordon" dumped 61-year-old Sharon Joiner-Orman in 2010 after 39 years together and married another woman in 2012. When he got remarried, he stopped financially supporting Joiner-Orman, reports The Associated Press.

Joiner-Orman took Orman to court, claiming that she relied on his promises of support during those 39 years when she set aside her own aspirations to support Orman's career ambitions.

In what appears to be the first ruling of its kind, Superior Court Judge Ned Rosenberg in Newark sided with Joiner-Orman even though the unmarried couple had never agreed to anything in writing (only orally).

Rosenberg recognized some kind of "performance exception," ruling Joiner-Orman upheld her end of the bargain for nearly 40 years and sacrificed educational and work-related opportunities for the relationship. He also noted Orman never denied the oral agreement and even acknowledged it through his actions and words.

The "Sesame Street" actor's case is certainly throwing a wrench into the state's new bright-line rule about oral versus written palimony agreements. But many support the ruling, arguing it's most fair from a public policy standpoint -- particularly when it comes to couples who were in relationships well before the amendment was enacted.

Orman's attorney will file an appeal of the judge's decision, which he says directly violates the state's 2010 Statute of Frauds amendment, reports the Associated Press.

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