Getting married is one of the most important decisions that a couple can make. When one or both individuals is bringing significant assets or debts to the marriage, careful consideration should be taken to protect each party. Many couples use a prenuptial agreement to address the distribution of marital assets and debts should the marriage be dissolved at a later date.
What is a Prenuptial Agreement?
A prenuptial agreement is a type of contract that addresses how assets and liabilities will be handled in the event of a separation or divorce. These types of pre-marriage agreements become effective when the marriage takes place.
Some of the issues that can be addressed in a prenuptial agreement include:
- Rights and obligations with respect to real estate, such as the right to sell or lease property (including property that was acquired before or during the marriage)
- The modification or elimination of alimony / spousal support
- How spouses will be handled in each other’s wills
- Distribution of life insurance proceeds
- Any other matter, including the setting forth of personal rights and obligations, that does not violate New Jersey public policy
New Jersey law does not permit a prenuptial agreement to set forth arrangements with respect to child custody or child support. These issues will be decided by a New Jersey judge or court under the “best interest of the child” standard.
Advantages of Filing a Prenuptial Agreement
Properly drafted prenuptial agreements can help couples cope with some of the hardest issues during the divorce process. All divorces involve some degree of stress, but the presence of a prenuptial agreement can provide both parties with a certainty that can alleviate some of the emotional distress.
When a couple has a prenuptial agreement in place, the process of a divorce can come to a conclusion much quicker, as parties do not have to resort to going through a lengthy court battle to resolve financial issues. Couples who have a prenuptial agreement in place may also save a significant amount of money in legal fees and other expenses associated with divorce.
Drafting a Premarital Agreement
Drafting a premarital agreement without the assistance of an experienced family lawyer can be complicated. A valid prenuptial agreement must be in writing, signed by both parties, and include a formal Statement of Assets.
An improperly drafted Statement of Assets, which does not include a fair and reasonable disclosure of all financial information, can result in an invalidation of the entire prenuptial agreement. For this reason, and to avoid any appearance that a party did not knowingly enter into the prenuptial agreement, it is highly advisable to consult with an experienced divorce lawyer before entering into this type of agreement.
Prenuptial agreements can be changed after the couple has been married. These changes must be made in writing, and both parties must sign the amended agreement – including an acknowledgement of any new additions to the asset list or changes to existing provisions.
How to Challenge a Prenuptial Agreement
New Jersey passed the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act (UPAA), which governs the law of prenuptial agreements. If a spouse can prove by clear and convincing evidence that the prenuptial agreement was entered into involuntarily, or under false pretenses, a New Jersey court may find that the agreement is unenforceable. Courts also will void any prenuptial agreement that is found to be “unconscionable” due to its grossly unreasonable nature.
South Jersey Divorce Lawyers at Burnham Law Group, LLC Help Clients Draft and Enforce Their Prenuptial Agreement
At Burnham Law Group, LLC our experienced South Jersey divorce lawyers can assist individuals in drafting comprehensive and enforceable prenuptial agreements. To schedule your free initial confidential consultation, call us today at 856-751-5505 or contact us online. From our offices in Marlton and Somers Point, New Jersey, we represent clients in Atlantic County, Burlington County, Camden County, and Gloucester County.