Prenuptial Agreements

NJ Family Law Approach

Morris County Prenuptial Agreements Attorneys

Building financial security and stability into your marriage

Entering into a prenuptial agreement can feel like a difficult topic to broach with your future spouse.

However, these conversations are important in order to protect your income and assets, such as a business, stocks, or property, from being absorbed into a marriage—preserving individual ownership and preventing assets from being divided as joint property in the event of a divorce.

Most people, if asked, would say that it’s important to have conversations around financial boundaries and responsibilities with the person they intend to marry. If the couple does divorce, prenuptial agreements can go a long way toward making the process less contentious, less expensive, and more amicable.

States have different interpretations of prenuptial agreements, so if you’re thinking of entering one—or already have—you’ll want to speak to a New Jersey prenuptial agreements attorney to make sure it’s legally valid.

How Prenuptial Agreements Work in New Jersey

In Morris County and the rest of New Jersey, prenuptial agreements are also known as “premarital agreements.” They must be entered into before commencing a marriage. (Agreements entered into after marriage are called postnuptial agreements and have additional legal requirements and different standing under the law.)

For LGBTQ+ spouses who married under New Jersey’s civil union laws, prior to the United States Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, premarital agreements apply the same way they would if you had a marriage license.

As a legal document, prenuptial agreements must be in writing and signed by both parties. Verbal agreements generally aren’t considered binding. The terms of the agreement must also be fair under the law.

The right to counsel (and review)

In New Jersey, both future spouses must have the opportunity for independent counsel.

This means that each person can have their own attorney review the document and suggest changes. Or, they must expressly waive their right to an attorney by noting in writing that they chose not to exercise their right to legal counsel.

Prenuptial agreements must also be voluntary. Neither partner can pressure, leverage, or trick the other into signing.

Because the couple isn’t married yet, the courts will consider the agreement to be a business agreement or a contract.

When you enter into a prenuptial agreement in New Jersey, full disclosure of assets and debts is required. Failure to do so can jeopardize the legality of the document.

This requirement comes from the 1988 New Jersey Uniform Premarital Agreement Act, which aims to protect people from unfair premarital agreements that may strip them of their legal rights during a divorce.

Make sure it’s binding

While an agreement entered into before the marriage begins is more likely to stand up to scrutiny in court, you can revoke or modify the premarital agreement later on.

However, once a couple is married, any financial agreements entered into between spouses must go through extra lengths to show that neither spouse used emotional leverage or other illicit means to get the other to sign. Even then, the agreement has questionable standing in court.

A prenuptial agreements attorney is always a good resource when drafting, reviewing, or entering into any premarital agreement. At Jacobs Berger, our family lawyers can answer your questions and create a premarital agreement that is legally binding and fits your needs.

What Assets/Liabilities Are Addressed?

In New Jersey, only certain matters can be addressed within a prenuptial agreement. Your prenuptial agreements attorney can provide more specific details, depending on your individual situation, but in general, premarital agreements in this state can address how assets and income acquired during the marriage will be classified:

  • Real estate, including the right to manage or control it.
    For example, you may want to keep sole control over the fishing cabin that’s been passed down in your family.
  • Assets, such as savings, retirement, stocks, specific property, intellectual property, and more.
  • How these assets, including finances, property, and real estate, will be divided up if you get divorced or pass away.
  • Benefits from a life insurance policy.
  • How alimony, also known as “spousal support,” will be meted out—if at all—in the event of divorce.
    Note however that a premarital agreement can’t be “unconscionable,” or deeply unfair to one person.
  • The designation of a trust that fulfills the agreement.
  • Other matters of individual rights and obligations, so long as they don’t conflict with state or federal legal requirements.

Child Support & Prenuptial Agreements

There are certain matters that a prenuptial agreement cannot address in New Jersey—including child support.

The state has specific requirements in place that guide the resolution of child support matters if a married couple gets divorced.

All decisions around divorce, including how both prenuptial and postnuptial agreements will be meted out, must be done in accordance with what’s in the child’s best interest.

The New Jersey court system considers it to be in a child’s best interest to have a relationship with both parents, and they also have a set formula for calculating child support. As such, state law takes precedence over anything written into a prenuptial agreement. However, a premarital agreement, as noted above, can define how income and assets may be defined or classified, which can have an impact on the calculation of child support.

A premarital agreements lawyer can provide further guidance on what specifically can or can’t be written into the agreement.

When You Should Consider a Prenuptial Agreement in NJ

It may feel daunting to initiate a conversation about prenuptial agreements with your future spouse, but there are many benefits to having one—and not always simply in case of divorce.

Protect inheritances

Prenuptial agreements can be an important and effective tool for protecting the inheritance of any children you have from a prior relationship or marriage. With the help of such an agreement, you can provide for your children in the event of a divorce or your death. If you’ve been divorced and are remarrying, you can also protect assets from your previous divorce or financial assets meant for your children.

Protect a business

Having a premarital agreement is also a good idea if you own your own business or are a part owner of a family business. In this manner, you can define how your share of the business or income you earn from the business can stay under your individual control.

Even if you and your spouse end up separating down the line, you wouldn’t necessarily be forced to sell your family’s business in order to equitably split joint assets.

Protect financial assets

What most people associate with prenuptial agreements are financial differences between two people entering into a marriage together, and these are certainly a reason to consider a premarital agreement.

If you’re entering the marriage with far more assets than your future spouse, you believe you’ll receive a substantial inheritance, you’re the beneficiary of a trust, or you expect to earn notably more than your partner, then a prenuptial agreement likely makes sense for you.

Likewise, if your future partner has considerable debts, such as student loans, tax debt, or credit card debt, then you may want to establish individual ownership over financial responsibilities and obligations prior to marrying and co-mingling your finances.

Protect privacy

Because a contentious divorce that winds up in court is a matter of public record, many people also use prenuptial agreements to preserve their financial privacy.

If any of these situations are relevant to you, it could be well worth your time to talk to a prenuptial agreements attorney. At Jacobs Berger, our experienced lawyers can guide you through the process of creating an agreement that secures your children’s inheritance, your family business, and more.

Benefits of Having a Prenuptial Agreement

There are many benefits to having a prenuptial agreement.

Even having a conversation about entering into a premarital agreement can create a healthy dialogue about how finances will be managed early on—instead of having this come up later in the marriage.

For many people, having a prenuptial agreement helps build confidence in the relationship. It lets you know that your financial future is secure, no matter what happens. This reassurance can create a greater sense of freedom moving forward.

In addition to establishing individual ownership over certain financial assets, a prenuptial agreement can ease the stress and concerns of non-spousal family members.

If you have children from a previous relationship or adoption, this can be a useful tool in ensuring their inheritance.

Likewise, if you own part of a family business—or have or will have inherited ownership of a family business—it can set the minds of your family at ease if you protect that business as separate from the marriage before tying the knot.

In the event of divorce, having a prenuptial agreement can make the process far more straightforward and amicable.

Simplifying Matters Down the Road

Instead of being legally required to divide your business, investments, or property with a person you’re separating from, you’ll both know these assets are individually owned as you head into the divorce proceedings should it occur.

Trying to figure out how to divide these assets—including by selling them—can cost you a lot of time, money, and stress. It may also come with major tax implications, and for assets passed down through your family, emotional hardship.

A prenuptial agreement now can save you down the line in terms of finances and mental health. Consider talking with a prenuptial agreements attorney to determine how best to secure your financial future and enter your marriage with confidence.

Are Prenuptial Agreements Always Enforceable?

Different states have different interpretations of prenuptial agreements—making it especially important to consult a prenuptial agreements attorney to make sure your agreement is legally valid and enforceable in New Jersey.

Prenuptial agreement attorneys can also help you determine if the agreement you signed is properly done and legally binding. The following are common grounds by which a prenuptial agreement may be challenged in New Jersey:

  • You weren’t given the opportunity to seek independent legal counsel before you signed the agreement. If someone decides to waive their right to legal advice, this must be included in writing and signed.
  • The agreement wasn’t voluntary. Neither party can coerce or pressure the other into signing the agreement.
  • There wasn’t enough time for you to review or understand the document, which can also be known as “duress.”
  • One or both parties didn’t fully disclose all their assets and debts prior to signing. Even if someone leaves something out by accident, the court will likely declare the agreement to be voided.
  • The agreement is unconscionable. This means that the terms of the agreement are grossly unfair to one party. In such situations, the agreement isn’t valid.

Given the potential pitfalls in drafting a legally valid and enforceable premarital agreement, it’s strongly recommended that you seek the guidance of a prenuptial agreements attorney to make sure the document you’re signing will hold up under court scrutiny.

If you’ve entered into an agreement you believe may be invalid, contact a family law attorney to make sure your legal rights are upheld.

Contact Us Today to Begin Your Prenuptial Agreement Process

At Jacobs Berger, LLC, our prenuptial agreements attorneys have extensive experience and legal knowledge. We offer candid counsel and can guide you through the process of drafting, modifying, enforcing, or contesting the legality of a prenuptial agreement.

We strive to help our clients create the legal building blocks for successful, protected, and enjoyable lives.

Contact us today for a strategic planning session to uphold your financial security as you embark on your marriage.