Prenuptial and Cohabitation Agreements
Written agreements are becoming an increasingly common way for couples to prevent or settle post-marriage disputes. In many instances, these contracts resolve issues regarding property and asset division more efficiently than court proceedings or mediation following a divorce filing. At Lindabury, McCormick, Estabrook & Cooper, our New Jersey family law lawyers have extensive experience helping people in Westfield and other New Jersey communities with prenuptial, mid-marriage, and cohabitation agreements. We can provide legal representation in a broad range of domestic and family law matters, tailoring our strategies to each client’s needs.Prenuptial Agreements
A prenuptial agreement, also known as a premarital agreement, is a written contract executed prior to and in consideration of the spouses’ marriage or civil union, and it becomes effective as soon as the parties are legally married. Such agreements typically contain provisions regarding the division of and rights to the parties’ assets and property, spousal support, and other matters not against public policy in the event of a divorce. It is required that each spouse have the opportunity to consult with his or her own attorney before agreeing to a prenuptial agreement, or waive this right in writing. Changes may be made to the agreement during the marriage only if they are in writing and signed by both spouses.
Pursuant to the Premarital Agreement Act adopted by New Jersey, a prenuptial agreement may be unenforceable if a spouse challenging the prenuptial agreement proves that the agreement is unjust or that he or she executed the agreement unwillingly. It also may be unenforceable if, before the execution of the agreement, one spouse was not provided with a full disclosure of the earnings, property, and financial obligations of the other spouse, did not consult with independent legal counsel or voluntarily and in writing waive the opportunity to do so, did not have an adequate knowledge of the property or financial obligations of the other spouse, or did not waive any right to disclosure of the property or financial obligations of the other spouse beyond the disclosure provided.Mid-Marriage Agreements
A mid-marriage agreement, or postnuptial agreement, refers to a written contract made between two spouses during their marriage. These agreements generally arise when the spouses are separating or contemplating divorce. They may include provisions similar to those in prenuptial agreements, such as those regarding asset and property division, spousal support, and other matters. Notably, child custody arrangements cannot be determined by pre- or postnuptial agreements.
A mid-marriage agreement may be enforced by a New Jersey court in divorce proceedings, provided that the agreement conforms to the statute of frauds, that there was a true marital rift at the time of the execution of the agreement, that the parties attempted a reconciliation in good faith, and that the agreement is fair and equitable both when executed and when its enforcement is sought.Cohabitation Agreements
In New Jersey, common-law marriages are not recognized, and cohabitating, unmarried couples lack the protections and benefits of a legal marriage. Therefore, while prenuptial agreements are for couples who intend to marry, and postnuptial agreements are for couples considering divorce, cohabitation agreements are designed for unmarried couples living together. As in pre- and postnuptial agreements, cohabitation agreements usually provide for the property and economic rights of each individual following a separation, including partner support and the division of assets and debts. Cohabitation agreements are governed by and enforceable under general contract law in New Jersey.Consult a New Jersey Lawyer When Pursuing a Divorce
Discussing your financial circumstances and concerns with a knowledgeable family law attorney can help you make informed decisions regarding prenuptial, mid-marriage, or cohabitation agreements. The attorneys at Lindabury, McCormick, Estabrook & Cooper provide guidance on divorce proceedings to clients throughout New Jersey, as well as on related issues such as alimony or child custody and support disputes. We operate offices in Westfield, Summit and Red Bank, from which we can assist individuals in communities such as Madison, Bedminster, Monroe, Colts Neck, Maplewood, and Springfield. To discuss your legal matter with an experienced attorney, contact our office at (908) 233-6800 or online and schedule a free consultation.