Prior to a marriage, some couples may wish to form a premarital agreement, sometimes referred to as a prenuptial agreement. These agreements are meant to cover issues that will come up in the marriage, and if necessary, set the terms of divorce, should that situation arise. Having a prenuptial agreement can both help the spouses resolve issues that arise during that marriage, and can spare the spouses from the time, money and stress that accompany lengthy divorce proceedings. In addition, premarital agreements may also be used as the basis for further divorce actions if they are necessary.
Premarital Agreements In New Jersey
In New Jersey, there are a number of aspects to a marriage than can be covered under a premarital agreement. A premarital agreement may address and provide guidelines for the following:
- Marital and separate property
- Property division
- Benefactor of a life insurance policy
- Establishments of any will or trust
- How the agreement may be carried out
- Any issues that are specific to the marriage and spouses
The overall goal of these items is set parameters for the marriage, and if necessary, divorce. Premarital agreements may even go as far as setting certain responsibilities for each spouse. This can be included in an agreement provided that the actions do not violate any sort of criminal or civil law. Premarital agreements may not cover issues that pertain to child support or custody. These issues are separate from a marriage and are handled in a separate case.
Validity Of Premarital Agreements
While premarital agreements may cover a wide variety of issues that come up in a marriage, at times, during a divorce, the validity of the agreement may be questioned. The first requirement for a premarital agreement to have any bearing on a marriage at all is for the two people that signed the document to be married. If a prenuptial agreement is drafted and signed, but the potential spouses never marry, then the contract has no standing. New Jersey has also adopted the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act (UPAA), which states that the contract must be in writing, signed by the spouses and have a fair disclosure of both spouses' respective assets attached. Ideally, both spouses should also have their premarital agreement reviewed by an attorney before signing. Under the UPAA, if a spouse does not have an attorney they must disclose that they willingly signed without legal counsel.
Once the basic requirements have been met, if the prenuptial agreement is challenged in court, it must be on certain grounds, with the burden of proof resting on the challenger. These grounds include:
- The agreement was signed involuntarily
- The agreement was signed without a clear or voluntary waiver of legal counsel
- The agreement was signed but the assets were not properly disclosed to either party
The spouse challenging the premarital agreement must argue through evidence in court in order to revoke some or all of the terms of the agreement. This can be arduous and difficult, and it may be best to seek counsel from an attorney. If you or a loved one is engaged in matters of Family Law in New Jersey, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.