Prenuptial Agreements Specify Spousal Rights and Obligations in the Event of a Divorce or Dissolution
A prenuptial agreement – also known as a premarital agreement – is a contract between future spouses entered into before a marriage or civil union. The terms of the prenuptial agreement are intended to dictate the rights and obligations of each spouse in the event of a divorce or dissolution of the partnership. By establishing these terms in advance, it can save both spouses emotional and financial difficulty in the event of a divorce.
In New Jersey, prenuptial agreements are governed by the Uniform Premarital and Pre-Civil Union Agreement ACT (UPAA), N.J.S.A. 37:2-31, et seq., which requires that the agreement must be in writing and that it goes into effect as of the marriage of the two parties.
Prenuptial agreements generally include provisions for the following areas:
- The rights and obligations of each of the parties in any of the property of either or both of them whenever and wherever acquired or located;
- The right to buy, sell, use, transfer, exchange, abandon, lease, consume, expend, assign, create a security interest in, mortgage, encumber, dispose of, or otherwise manage and control property;
- The disposition of property upon separation, divorce, dissolution, death, or the occurrence or nonoccurrence of any other event;
- The payment, modification or elimination of spousal support;
- The making of a will, trust or other documentation to carry out the provisions of the agreement;
- The ownership rights in and disposition of the death benefits from life insurance policies;
- The choice of state law governing the construction of the agreement; and
- Any other matter, including the parties’ personal rights and obligations, not in violation of public policy.
Under the UPAA, a complete and accurate statement of assets must be attached to the prenuptial agreement in order to be valid.
Improperly Drafted Prenuptial Agreement Can Be Declared Invalid
In New Jersey, prenuptial agreements cannot make specifications regarding child custody and support after the marriage has dissolved. Such decisions are made at the time of the divorce to protect the child’s best interests. If the premarital agreement does include provisions for child custody or support, this part of the premarital agreement will be declared invalid at the time of the divorce.
A premarital agreement may also be declared invalid if it is determined to be unconscionable, meaning that the agreement must be fair and reasonable. If the terms of the prenuptial agreement would result in financial hardship for either party, it is considered unconscionable. This includes any agreement that would force a former spouse to become dependent on the state or provided a standard of living far below that which was enjoyed before the marriage.
Advantages of Premarital Agreements
Although no one wants to assume that a marriage or civil union will end in divorce, there are certain situations in which a prenuptial agreement is advisable. They include:
- Second marriages – prenuptial agreements can include provisions for children of previous marriages;
- Marriages later in life – prenuptial agreements preserve assets accrued before the marriage;
- Family business – premarital agreements protect business assets from being distributed to former spouses;
- One party’s assets are significantly greater than the other;
- One spouse has significant debt; and
- One spouse gives up a lucrative career prior to or during the marriage.
Lawyers at Adinolfi & Packman, P.A. can assist with Prenuptial Agreements
A prenuptial agreement is only valid if both parties enter into it voluntarily, without coercion. Both parties must have adequate opportunity to review the premarital agreement with their chosen counsel. Additionally, both parties must be represented individually, and cannot share an attorney.
The New Jersey prenuptial agreement attorneys at Adinolfi & Packman, P.A., will help negotiate the terms of your prenuptial agreement and will draft an agreement that will be upheld by New Jersey Family Courts. Our knowledgeable team of professionals handles a wide variety of prenuptial agreement negotiations, from simple alimony agreements to highly complex division of assets. In the event of a divorce, the New Jersey divorce lawyers at Adinolfi & Packman can also help to ensure that the prenuptial agreement is upheld and enforced.
If you are considering a prenuptial agreement, contact the New Jersey family law lawyers at the Haddonfield law offices of Adinolfi & Packman, P.A. today.