Prenuptial Agreements in New Jersey: Necessary Evil or Saving Grace?
Opinions about prenuptial agreements run the gamut, with some disparaging them as cynical, others accepting them as practical, and still others praising their utility during the often stressful divorce process. Although you may enter into marriage under the presumption that divorce is absolutely out of the question, life is simply unpredictable, and unfortunately, sometimes circumstances change. Even the most loving, compatible couples may find at some point down the road that it is best to go there separate ways.
When considering a prenuptial agreement, you may think of signing such a document as unromantic, even fatalist. But consider this: you maintain car insurance, health insurance, life insurance, etc., not because you assume that some tragic event will require these policies, but because you are better protected in the event that such policies are necessary. Discussing critical issues surrounding finances, responsibilities, and plans for the future allows you and your future spouse to move forward on the same page. With a prenuptial agreement in place, no matter where life takes you, you can save time, money, and the potential conflict of disagreements by outlining your arrangement in advance.
Need-to-Know’s About Prenuptial Agreements in New Jersey
The following is list of need-to-know’s about prenuptial agreements in New Jersey. Considering and discussing these issues with your future spouse can facilitate a valuable dialogue that strengths your bond and allows you both to move forward with security and confidence.
Financial Issues in NJ Prenuptial Agreements
First and foremost, it is important to understand that prenuptial agreements are not just necessary for people with extensive assets. In fact, these agreements are useful in cases involving significant debts as well. The financial components of a prenuptial agreement can address a range of issues, including division of assets and debts, alimony and spousal support, and other allocations that must be determined during the divorce process. For instance, you may want to maintain certain property that has sentimental or financial value, and thus, include a provision to exclude these assets from the equitable distribution process if you choose to divorce in the future. When you are a business owner, a prenuptial agreement can be essential to maintaining sole ownership of your business, regardless of your relationship status. Additionally, a spouse who may be entitled to alimony due to lesser earnings, can choose to waive his or her right to pursue alimony if he or she so chooses.
Notably, prenuptial agreements can also address financial responsibilities during the marriage, such as contributions to household expenses, whether or not you will have joint or separate bank accounts, and how certain loans or outstanding expenses will be handled. For instance, if your spouse has $100,000 in student loans to pay off, will pooled earnings be used to make these payments? Or, if you owned a house prior to your marriage, will both of your incomes be used to pay the mortgage or make home improvements? All of these issues are important to consider.
Child Custody and Parenting Issues in NJ Prenuptial Agreements
Although prenuptial agreements can encompass a broad range of issues, those involving child custody and parenting time are not within the purview of a prenup. New Jersey law requires that child custody and parenting issues are resolved at the time of the divorce and modified post-divorce if necessary, subscribing to the current standard of the best interests of the child. Notably, this applies only to future children that you and your spouse may have during your marriage, not to children that you have from a previous marriage or relationship.
The Components of a Valid Prenuptial Agreement in New Jersey
New Jersey acknowledges prenuptial agreements as valid under the law if they satisfy the following criteria:
- You and your spouse each obtain independent legal counsel
- You and your spouse both disclose all of your assets
- Neither you nor your spouse are coerced into signing the agreement (it must be entirely voluntary)
- The agreement must be drafted, agreed-upon, and executed before the marriage
- The agreement must be signed while a notary or attorney is present
- Both you and your spouse must be given sufficient time to consider the agreement before signing
- The agreement must be outlined in clear, understandable language
Overall, prenuptial agreements can serve as invaluable assets, protective mechanisms, and launching points for better communication between you and your partner. Contact the law offices of Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark, L.L.C. today at 973-828-0829 to speak with one of our highly knowledgeable New Jersey family lawyers about how a prenuptial agreement may be right for you.