Yes, they can be seen as unromantic and unsexy, but they are SMART and not just for the mega-wealthy either. Pre-nuptial or pre-marital agreements can help couples establish what happens in the event of divorce, death or how they want to handle the payment of expenses or the treatment of assets during their marriage. For example, in a divorce setting these agreements can protect assets from being subject to equitable distribution (including later developed businesses or professional practices), they can establish a pre-determined amount of spousal support that can both limit liability for the partner paying but also offer assurance to the partner entitled to support and most of all they can offer certainty and reduce costs in the event of divorce or death.
These agreements are helpful in other ways too. They can actually have the effect of strengthening relationships by allowing couples to have difficult conversations about finances and financial expectations before they are married or by easing tensions in family dynamics by offering financial reassurance to family members or children of parties marrying later in life. They also offer the opportunity for couples to have a better knowledge and understanding of the income, assets and debts that their partner may be bringing into a marriage. Information that is helpful in making sure that you are both on the same page from the beginning.
The other good news is that pre-marital agreements have become increasingly more enforceable in New Jersey. These agreements are governed by the Uniform Pre-Marital Agreement Act, which was enacted in New Jersey in 1988. The New Jersey legislature made changes to the Act in 2013 to increase the enforceability of these agreements. These changes essentially removed the ability of a party to challenge the validity of a pre-nuptial agreement on the basis that it is “unconscionable at the time of enforcement.”
Under the law as revised in 2013, in order to challenge a pre-marital agreement, a party has to show that he or she:
(1) Was not provided full and fair disclosure of the earnings, property, and financial obligations of the other party;(2) Did not voluntarily and expressly waive, in writing, any right to disclosure of the property or financial obligations of the other party beyond the disclosure provided;(3) Did not have, or reasonable could not have had, an adequate knowledge of the property or financial obligations of the other party; or (4) Did not consult with independent legal counsel and did not voluntarily and expressly waive, in writing, the opportunity to consult with independent legal counsel.
For anyone considering a pre-marital agreement, this means that it is very important to seek the advice of an attorney to ensure that all of the procedural requirements under the law are met to make sure that your agreement is enforceable and that your rights are protected.
If you are contemplating marriage or have a wedding date on the calendar, find out how a pre-marital agreement might help protect you in the future. Contact Georgia Fraser, Esq. of Fraser Family Law Office, LLC for a consultation. (609)223-2099