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  • Laura L. Van Tassel, Esq.

Postnuptial Agreements: An Alternative To COVID Divorce

The pandemic has given many married couples the endless time and opportunity to reevaluate their relationships. For some couples, spending extra time together at home has made their marriage even stronger, but for others, being in the same house together and working from home has made them realize the problems in their relationships. There are the expected reasons, such as increased domestic pressures and upended routines that may have once masked marriage problems. And obvious ones, such as a disproportionate share of the burden. Also, it is not uncommon to find issues of financial mismanagement or even substance abuse at the root of marital problems during this time.

If you and your spouse both realize your marriage is in trouble, please understand that divorce is not the only option. Most people are familiar with the term “Prenuptial Agreements” or “Pre-Nups”. But what a lot of people don’t know is that it is possible to enter into a similar agreement even if you are already married or in a relationship. Rather than filing for a divorce, consider entering into a Postnuptial Agreement to deal with some of your marital issues.

What is a Postnuptial Agreement?

The easiest way to describe a Postnuptial Agreement is as a contract between you and your spouse that you enter into after your marriage has begun.

In New Jersey, Postnuptial Agreements can provide an important framework for a married couple’s relationship It is an agreement that forces you both to have certain responsibilities (how to deal with certain issues, such as who pays the phone bill, or who washes the clothes), and can help you both work on your marriage without the added stress and continued arguments about those issues.

However, if you try to work on your marriage and it ends up falling apart, the Postnuptial agreement can at the very least help expedite the divorce process and help save you both legal fees. Post-Nups can help married couples plan for a division of all their assets and debts should they separate, divorce, or die. In addition, marital issues—such as alimony—can be included in the agreement, however, contrary to what many people believe, child custody cannot be written into a Postnuptial Agreement.

Other reasons married partners may choose to sign a postnuptial agreement include the following:

  • When one of the spouses stops working to care for minor children (and thus would like to secure a certain amount of financial resources in the event of a divorce).

  • To make sure children from previous relationships are entitled to certain assets through inheritance.

  • In the event that one of the parties, after the marriage, has taken on considerable debt or made irresponsible financial decisions.

  • Simply as a means of clearly defining each party's wishes for assets brought to the marriage.

What are some of the common issues that postnuptial agreements address?

  • Real and Personal Property, such as real estate, furnishing, or vehicles

  • Business interests, including profits, dividends, distributions, profit-sharing plans, royalties

  • Financial assets, such as earned income, checking accounts, savings accounts, brokerage or mutual accounts

  • Retirement accounts, including pensions or 401k accounts

  • Inheritances or life insurance policies

  • Alimony or spousal support

  • Separation of debts (student loans, mortgage, or existing child support obligations)

  • Attorneys’ Fees & Costs

Standards for a New Jersey Post-nuptial Agreement

In order to have a legally valid Postnuptial Agreement in New Jersey, there must at least be:

  • Full disclosure by both parties

  • Independent representation for both parties

  • No coercion or duress

  • Fair and equitable terms

These strict standards strive to protect all parties entering into an Postnuptial Agreement. You should note, however, that the New Jersey courts tend to scrutinize Post-Nuptial Agreements more than Prenuptial Agreements, due to the fiduciary relationship that exists between married couples. *Couples who already have a Prenuptial Agreement may choose a Post-Nup as a way of altering the terms or updating their original Prenup.

New Jersey has a specific statute that guides the specific requirements for a valid prenuptial agreement. Postnuptial Agreements are enforceable provided they are fair at the time they are made and fair at the time that they are sought to be enforced.In any case, in order to be legally valid, a Post-Nup must be in writing, notarized, and executed only after there has been fair disclosure of assets by both spouses.

Do You Need a Postnuptial Agreement?

An Attorney Can Help

Whether you've decided after marriage that certain protections are warranted, or want assurances after becoming a stay-at-home mom that you'll be taken care of in the event of a divorce, you may want to consider a postnuptial agreement. Working with an experienced NJ Postnuptial Agreement lawyer may help you feel more secure with asserting your rights and understanding the role a postnuptial agreement may play in your marriage. It's not for everyone, but can be quite effective in some instances.

If you are considering a postnuptial agreement, a postnuptial agreement attorney in New Jersey could work to help you reach an agreement that recognizes your family’s rights and needs. Call me at (201) 664-8566 for a no-obligation consultation and to see if a Postnuptial Agreement is right for you.


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