When it comes down to it, any stigma attached to the notion of a premarital agreement is about timing. No athlete visualizes defeat before a match or game. So who wants to think about divorce while planning or anticipating a marriage? Another contributing factor to said stigma would have to be the source from which most of us tend to hear the term ‘pre-nup’ in the first place: the rich and famous. We think of wealth, a lump of money or sizeable estate “worth protecting”. That certainly doesn’t apply to you or I, right?
For whatever reason, the peace of mind such an agreement can offer to all people (not just the rich and famous) does not warrant much attention. Perhaps the word ‘agreement’ should be replaced with ‘insurance’? After all, we don’t think twice before investing in insurance that covers events related to our health, automobiles, homes, travel plans or even pets.
Approach your attorney with this mindset and you very well may be making one of the best decisions one can make when it comes to ‘making it legal’. From this perspective, at least learning the terms of a pre-nuptial agreement is merely good sense. In the state of New Jersey, a wide variety of issues, ones you may not have otherwise considered, can be addressed by the agreement.
It all starts with the actual creation of the agreement. Most states adhere to a law known as the The Uniform Premarital Agreement Act. New Jersey enacted its own version in 1988. Three requirements are established:
- It must be in writing.
- It must be signed by both parties.
- It must have a statement of assets owned by both parties, attached to it.
The idea here is to have full disclosure so that it is easy to review the financial information and make an informed decision. As a written and signed document, it might not sound like it requires an attorney. Well, writing on a piece of paper and signing one’s name may not. Maintaining a firm grasp on the big picture very likely will. That is why it is highly advisable to involve a family law attorney. Think of it this way. If you still regard the agreement as a bad omen or are having a hard time separating it from the emotional/spiritual aspect of your relationship, simply allow a legal expert to shoulder those associations as one of the responsibilities of managing your affairs. Meanwhile, you and your partner are free to commence with the love and matrimony.
Those aforementioned rich and famous folks always make the news with the dollar signs attached to their agreements and the public inevitably associates that with cash. What about ownership of property? Do not forget that here in New Jersey, your agreement should outline both you and your future spouse’s rights and obligation when it comes to property that you own separately. Furthermore, what either of you do with said property going forward should be addressed, i.e. buying, selling, maintaining, transferring, etc. Lastly, how the property ends up being divided in any event, such as death or divorce, needs to be covered.
Of course, there are more financial dimensions to the premarital agreement. Again, we know you don’t want to consider it but in the event of a divorce, spousal support will absolutely be a difficult issue. With a pre-nup, this battle can be anticipated and rendered far less upsetting.
Life’s ups and downs can be accounted for, especially with your attorney monitoring. Just be clear on one thing. Child support does not enter the picture. The state of New Jersey considers these prenuptial agreements to be a matter between future spouses. A child is a separate person.
Lastly, know that premarital agreements can be challenged. The spouse doing so will have the burden of proof. Of course, this is also additional justification for legal consultation from the get go.