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Are Premarital Agreements Difficult to Enforce in NJ?

By Sarah Jacobs, Esq.

Morris County Prenuptial Agreement Enforcement Lawyers

Marital Agreement Enforcement Attorneys Morris County NJMarital and non-marital agreements in New Jersey are a great way for couples to plan ahead, agree upon terms, and ensure they are aligned both personally and financially no matter what the future brings. These discussions can be difficult for a couple at the time of their engagement, while they may be purchasing property together, and while they are planning the wedding. However, many believe that this discussion can be a healthy and growth-oriented experience for a couple to successfully navigate, work through and agree upon the necessary components of a premarital or prenuptial agreement. Having this discussion shows maturity in the couples ability to work through difficult conversations.  While these conversations should not be under the expectation that a divorce inevitably awaits the couple at some point in the future, such prenuptial agreements can lend some security and stability for both parties as they enter into the marriage.

A prenuptial agreement, also known as a premarital agreement or “prenup,” is a contract entered into by a couple prior to getting married or entering a civil union. It defines the rights and obligations of each party in the event of a divorce or death of either party. Among other things, a premarital agreement typically clarifies issues of division of property and alimony. New Jersey courts will uphold properly drafted prenuptial agreements. Conversely, prenuptial agreements that are poorly or improperly written may not be enforceable in court.

Through prenuptial agreements, post-nuptial agreements, cohabitation agreements, palimony agreements, and all marital agreements, it is possible to agree upon complex issues such as alimony and division of complex assets. However, marital agreements, depending on a number of factors, are often difficult to enforce in New Jersey. In particular, prenuptial agreements at times pose problems when attempting to have the terms of the agreement enforced.

While common, these can also be difficult agreements to draft because the couple that is marrying appear to be aligned, and often will agree to terms between themselves, only for different terms to appear in the document, which are far less generous to the other party. This is partially due to couples drafting their own agreements without the assistance of qualified family law attorneys. It is also due to the strict and specific statutes which govern enforceable marital agreements in our State.

Morristown Attorneys Discuss the New Jersey UPAA

The New Jersey Uniform Premarital Agreement Act was signed into law in 1988. This legal act is intended to protect individuals from unfair and/or unlawful marital agreements which may strip them of their legal rights during divorce, civil union dissolution, or legal relationship dissolution. As per the UPAA, all premarital and marital agreements must be in the form of a written agreement and signed by both parties. Verbal agreements are not considered binding, and in most cases will not be enforceable by the courts.

In addition, the Act dictates that all premarital agreements must include a “statement of assets,” which is contributed to by both parties at the time the agreement is drafted.

The statement of assets essentially requires each prospective spouse to make a complete and honest financial disclosure to the other. This should include all income, assets and debts. This documentation is not only a helpful tool when preparing a prenuptial agreement, it can be an instrumental component and certainly a starting point for the future spouses to begin financially planning for the marriage.

Accurate financial statements help couples to identify their property and their respective rights to that property, and also to engage in proper financial planning at the outset of their marriage.

This statement of assets is to ensure that each party has fully and accurately disclosed his or her financial assets before the signing of a marital or premarital agreement. If it is later determined that the statement of assets was incomplete, inaccurate, or in any way compromised, the agreement may be considered void regardless of intent.

Factors Used to Challenge Validity of Marital Agreements in Morris NJ

In addition to what is explicitly stated in the UPAA, there are a litany of other factors which may be used to challenge the validity of your marital agreement in New Jersey. Your marital agreement enforcement lawyer should walk you through the legal process, ensuring that all of the following steps are taken:

  • Each party was given the opportunity to seek help from independent legal counsel. If one or both parties elect to waive their right to work with independent counsel, this decision must be documented in writing within the marital agreement.
  • The terms of the marital agreement must be conscionable. In contract law, the concept of unconscionability refers to situations where the terms of an agreement are so overwhelmingly unfair and/or one sided that the agreement is not considered valid.
  • The marital agreement was in writing, signed by both parties, and was not entered into under threats, coercion or any other compromising circumstance.
  • As discussed in the previous section, any issues with the financial disclosure before or during the signing of the marital agreement may be grounds for the agreement being thrown out.

There are also unenforceable terms which may not be included in certain types of marital or premarital agreements. For example, prenuptial agreements may not address issues such as child custody or child support in the case of a divorce. This is due to the fact that these issues are to be determined at the time of the divorce based on the current circumstance of both co-parents and the best interests of the child.

Contact our Mendham Marital Agreement Enforcement Attorneys Today

At Jacobs Berger, our marital agreement attorneys have extensive experience drafting and enforcing agreements for clients across local Morris County communities including Chester, Mendham, Harding, Morristown, Chatham, Morris Plains and all of Northern New Jersey. We believe that premarital, marital, and non-marital agreements are excellent proactive choices that couples can make to protect their rights, their finances and their future.

Today, our Morris County divorce and family law attorneys will draft an enforceable marital agreement, while focusing on what laws and regulations can come into play, and how to avoid common oversights that might make the agreement, or a portion of the agreement, unenforceable. Our lawyers take pride in offering highly personalized legal solutions which fit the individual needs and concerns of our divorce and family law clients. To discuss any and all of these topics in a confidential case assessment with a member of our legal team today, please contact us onlineor call our Morristown office at (973) 710-4366.

Contact Our Morristown Attorneys Today

At Jacobs Berger, our attorneys are experienced in protecting our clients across Madison, Randolph, Tewksbury, Morristown, and the greater Morris County area in all family law-related issues.

To schedule a strategic planning session with one of our experienced team members regarding your particular case, please contact us online or through our Morristown, NJ office at (973) 354-4506.