An Overview of Prenuptial Agreements

What you need to know if you’re considering a prenuptial, or premarital, agreement.

A prenuptial agreement (“prenup” for short) is a written contract created by two people before they are married. A prenup typically lists all of the property each person owns (as well as any debts) and specifies what each person’s property rights will be after the marriage.

A prenuptial agreement is known as an “ante-nuptial agreement,” or in more modern terms, a “premarital agreement.” Sometimes the word “contract” is substituted for “agreement,” as in “prenuptial contract.” An agreement made during marriage, rather than before, is known as a “post-nuptial,” “post-marital,” or “marital” agreement.

You Don’t Make a Prenup

If you don’t make a prenuptial agreement, then New Jersey’s laws determine who owns the property that you acquire during your marriage, as well as what happens to that property at divorce or death. (Property acquired during your marriage is known as either marital or community property, depending on your state.) New Jersey law may even have a say in what happens to some of the property you owned before you were married.

Under the law, marriage is considered a contract between the bride and groom, and with that contract comes certain automatic property rights for each spouse. For example, in the absence of a prenup stating otherwise, a spouse usually has the right to:

  1. share ownership of property acquired during marriage, with the expectation that the property will be divided between the spouses in the event of a divorce or at death
  2. incur debts during marriage that the other spouse may have to pay for, and share in the management and control of any marital or community property, sometimes including the right to sell it or give it away.

If these laws called marital property, divorce, and probate laws aren’t to your liking, then it is time to think about a prenup, which in most cases lets you decide for yourselves how your property should be handled.

Making a Valid Prenup

As prenuptial agreements become more common, the law is becoming friendlier toward them. Traditionally, courts scrutinized prenups with a suspicious eye, because they almost always involved a waiver of legal and financial benefits by a less wealthy spouse and they were thought to encourage breakups.

As divorce and remarriage have become more prevalent, and with more equality between the sexes, the courts and legislatures are increasingly willing to uphold premarital agreements. Today, every state permits them, although a prenup that is judged unfair or otherwise fails to meet state requirements will still be set aside. Because courts still look carefully at prenups, it is important that you negotiate and write up your agreement in a way that is clear, understandable, and legally sound.

PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENTS

All of the prenuptial agreement forms listed in the menu below are offered free, as a courtesy service to other New Jersey lawyers and to all pro se litigants. Attorney Theodore Sliwinski, Esq. is committed to providing Quality Legal Services at Affordable Rates to the public. His mantra has always been “Getting Divorced Doesn’t Have to be Expensive.” Moreover, he can also prepare your prenuptial agreement for an affordable fee.

These sample prenuptial agreements are intended for use by New Jersey lawyers or by pro se litigants. Please don’t hesitate to call Mr. Sliwinski, Esq. if you have any questions about using these sample agreements. He will be pleased to assist you. Remember, negotiating and preparing a prenuptial agreement is a difficult and emotional process. Don’t go at it alone!

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