The question has been popped, the rings have been purchased, the wedding has been planned and then BOOM, out of nowhere a dreaded and often-misinterpreted term comes out of the woodwork. That term is Prenup or Prenuptial Agreement. Assuming everyone is on board, then it is time to visit a family law attorney.
The last things many couples feel comfortable doing is discussing the demise of their marriage before the same even started. As a New Jersey divorce lawyer I am aware 50% of marriages end in divorce. That harsh reality has made it more and more common for couples to negotiate New Jersey prenuptial agreements before they say “I do”. As they say, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. If couples chose to think in this mindset when negotiating a prenuptial agreement, the same will go smoothly and stress can be avoided during what should be a joyous time in one’s life.
In today’s world prenuptial agreements are not just for the rich and famous. I cannot tell you how many “everyday people” seek some sort of protection or “safety blanket” before they marry. Because people are marrying at an older age nowadays they come into the marriage with assets. Long gone are the days of Sally and Bobby who marry fresh out of high school with nothing to their name. Today many people get married in their late 20s or even early 30s. In that time frame they acquire property, retirement assets, open businesses and even go into significant debt. While technically assets and debts that are acquired before marriages are exempt from being divided in divorce, things get tricky when more assets/ debts are acquired during or if assets/debts are co-mingled. A prenuptial agreement can take the guesswork out the financial factors during a divorce.
Even if parties come into a marriage with no assets, they may feel that agreeing how to divide what they acquire while they are still in love will be much easier than trying to divide things when they are seeking to dissolve their union. In addition, I find that people are much more fair and level headed in negotiating a prenuptial agreement than a divorce settlement.
If you are considering protecting yourself down the line and wish to have a prenuptial agreement drafted here are a few tips to make the process easy and stress free:
1. Timing: The last thing anyone wants to do the week before their wedding is finalize a legal document that discusses the terms of their divorce. I often find clients wait until last minute to have a prenuptial agreement prepared and find this is a recipe for disaster. People are naturally nervous before their weddings and in turn uncomfortable negotiating a prenuptial agreement. Put the two together and there is unnecessary stress and aggravation surrounding what should be a happy time. I would recommend that a prenuptial agreement be finalized at least 3 months before a wedding, meaning the process should be started at least six months before the wedding. “But we agree on everything…” you say. You may agree on everything in theory, however when the an actual document goes back and forth a few times and changes to the language need to be made, you will be thankful that you have time to do so without a proverbial “gun to your head”.
2. Finances: When negotiating a prenuptial agreement both sides are required to disclose their assets and income. This way each party is able to determine whether the agreement is fair. I would advise that you prepare your tax returns and make a list of your assets and liabilities before you see an attorney, so that you are prepared for the disclosure aspect of the agreement in advance.
3. Terms: Most people find it easiest to discuss the basic terms of the agreement with their partners before seeing an attorney. This will lay the groundwork for the agreement and avoid wasted time when drafting the same. I would advise starting these discussions well before seeing an attorney so that you and your significant other are on the same page well before the wedding.
4. Representation: In order for a prenuptial agreement to be valid in New Jersey both parties should have an attorney. This will avoid issues down the line of possible invalidity of the agreement and will make enforcement less problematic.
5. Stay Calm: Try to look at the prenuptial agreement as a financial contract that is separate and apart from the upcoming wedding. Doing so will help keep the emotions out of the drafting and will make the process smoother and faster for everyone involved.
My experience at my New Jersey law firm is that it is essential for the lawyers involved to appreciate the extremely sensitive nature of a prenuptial agreement as well as the knowledge to create one that is legally sound and correct. If you have questions regarding protecting your future, do not hesitate to contact our law firm to see what we can do to help.
This blog was written by the one and only Elizabeth Rozin-Golinder, Esq., an associate at The Law Offices of Edward R. Weinstein