Under recent amendments to the New Jersey Uniform Premarital and Pre-Civil Union Agreement Act, premarital agreements will be more difficult to amend. Therefore, it is imperative that both parties fully understand their rights and obligations before signing on the dotted line.
Essentially, a “prenup” is a written contract executed prior to marriage, which outlines the assets and liabilities of each spouse and determines their rights and obligations, should the couple divorce. To ensure the contract is enforceable, it must be clear and reasonably fair to both parties.
Under the prior law, a spouse could challenge the enforceability of a prenup if terms would result in financial hardship, such as providing a standard of living far below that which was enjoyed before the marriage or leaving one of the spouses without a means of reasonable support. Therefore, if the support payments outlined in the agreement would leave one of the spouses destitute and result in a windfall for the other, a court could deem the contract “unconscionable” and amend its provisions.
However, the revised statute narrows the definition of “unconscionable” to include only situations in which one party:
- Was not provided full and fair disclosure of the earnings and property and financial obligations of the other party;
- 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;
- Did not have, or reasonably could not have had, an adequate knowledge of the property or financial obligations of the other party; or
- Did not consult with independent legal counsel and did not voluntarily and expressly waive, in writing, the opportunity to consult with independent legal counsel
Thus, financial hardships that occur after the execution of the agreement no longer warrant amendment. Given the recent changes in state law, couples should consult an experienced and knowledgeable New Jersey family law attorney prior to signing any premarital agreement. While no one wants to enter a marriage thinking its not going to work out, it is important to understand how the agreement may impact you later down the road.
At Kardos, Rickles, Hand & Bidlingmaier, our New Jersey family law attorneys can explain the benefits and risks of a prenuptial agreement. We can also help negotiate a contract that protects your best interests and answer any questions you may have. Contact us today at 609.989.7995.