Frequently Asked Questions About Premarital Agreements in New Jersey
A lot of people are only familiar with premarital agreements from movies and television shows where characters have dramatic or humorous confrontations about whether a reluctant prospective spouse will sign the document. In reality, developing a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement can be a healthy process that gives each person a clear perspective on how financial issues will be resolved if the marriage ends. Katherine K. Wagner, Attorney at Law in Somerville offers sound counsel on all aspects of premarital agreements and can help find answers to these common questions:
- Should we establish a premarital agreement?
- Is a lawyer required to complete a prenup in New Jersey?
- What are “sunset clauses” and are they required?
- Is it legal to create a postnuptial agreement in New Jersey?
- What are reasons that a judge might reject a premarital agreement signed by both spouses?
Whether you choose to create a premarital agreement or not is a personal choice between you and your prospective spouse, but you shouldn’t be dissuaded by some common misconceptions about the process. Prenuptial agreements are not just for super wealthy individuals seeking to preserve their family fortune. They can help anyone who is concerned about their financial well-being in the event of a divorce or wants to avoid a costly litigation battle.
Like other contracts, you aren’t legally required to have an attorney review your prenuptial agreement, but you could have serious regrets later if you make a binding commitment without first consulting with an attorney. As an experienced New Jersey family lawyer, Ms. Wagner helps clients understand how the proposed prenup language will affect them if the marriage ends in divorce.
Prenuptial agreements can be revised or revoked upon agreement of the parties, but there is no automatic expiration date. Theoretically, the terms of an agreement made before the wedding would still remain in force if the couple divorces after their 50th anniversary party. However, some spouses choose to insert a “sunset clause” into their premarital agreement. This language, which is not required, declares all or part of the document null and void after a certain period of time. For example, you might state that the agreement sunsets 10 years after the wedding. At that point, you could draft a postnuptial agreement or start negotiating from scratch if you happen to divorce later on.
Even after you’re married, you and your spouse can create a framework to deal with the financial consequences of a possible divorce. These postnuptial agreements must be entered into freely by both parties following full disclosure of assets and debts. Though you’re already wed, you do have the right to have your own attorney negotiate and review your postnuptial agreement to make sure that your interests are protected.
A New Jersey prenuptial or postnuptial agreement must be fair at the time of signing and when a spouse seeks to enforce it as part of a marital dissolution proceeding. As with other contracts, the court can choose not to enforce a prenup if they find evidence of fraud or coercion. This might come into play if a party claims that their spouse failed to provide complete accurate information about their financial circumstances. A judge could also reject the application of a premarital agreement if it was secured through coercion or if enforcement would be unconscionable.