Our Rockland County Divorce Lawyers Explain
Many couples are initially resistant to the idea of a prenuptial agreement. At first glance, this sentiment is understandable: the prospect of planning for a possible split before the marriage even begins hardly strikes a romantic chord. Yet, this kneejerk reaction to prenuptial agreements is misguided at best, and worse, can actually end up damaging the relationship between two people who love each other.
Prenuptial agreements are important: they protect prospective married couples in more ways than one. If you are planning to marry in New York or New Jersey, you would be doing a disservice to yourself, and to your partner, by discounting the possibility of a prenuptial agreement without exploring the potential benefits. Prenuptial agreements can actually be a positive for a relationship.
Prenuptial Agreements Help Build Trust, Openness
It may seem counterintuitive to think of prenuptial agreements as a relationship building tool. However, the one you are about to marry is probably the closest person to you in your life. You have been through a lot together, shared your secrets, hopes and dreams. When it comes to discussing a premarital agreement, you have to ask yourself: can I truly discuss anything in the world with this person I love?
Honest, open discussion probably helped foster the depth of your relationship in the first place. A candid conversation about what is important to you, even in the context of an eventuality you hope will never come to pass, can serve to build on the solid foundation you have already established. Future spouses can confront their worst fears and come out of it closer than ever.
Overview of New York and New Jersey Prenuptials
The positive effects a prenuptial agreement can have on your emotional bond are, to an extent, grounded in the legal operation of the marital document. Of course, divorce lawyers can best explain the legal aspects of marriage to prospective couples in New York or New Jersey. But, even a basic understanding of how state matrimonial law functions can benefit those unfamiliar with the mechanics of a prenuptial agreement.
Both New York and New Jersey are equitable distribution states. This means that upon the dissolution of marriage, should a couple have failed to execute some prior operative arrangement, a judge will divide marital assets based on what the court determines is fair. As a general rule, marital assets include all property acquired by either or both parties during the marriage.
Equitable distribution does not necessarily mean a 50-50 split. Rather, the judge will consider many factors, such as the income and earning capacity of each party, the length of the marriage, the age and health of both parties, each party’s direct and indirect contributions to the acquisition of the marital property and the tax consequences to each party of any proposed property arrangement.
While courts no doubt do their best to create a fair, well thought-out plan for property division, a judge with only a limited amount of time to become familiar with a case can never be as in tune with the respective values, needs and feelings of each party as is the couple themselves. Therefore, a better arrangement may be reached by the spouses and their attorneys, especially if it is contemplated long beforehand while negative emotions are out of the picture.
Couples who divorce without a prenuptial agreement often face a heated, drawn out battle about property division. Decisions are challenged, appeals are filed and ultimately, the amicability of the ongoing relationship between the two former partners can be severely impaired. For couples who wish to have children, it is especially important to have a plan in place that will allow a relationship to continue even if a marriage ends. Planning for every possible eventuality can protect a couple’s bond into perpetuity, even if it is no longer classified under the auspices of marriage.
While prenuptial agreements often focus on rights and responsibilities pertaining to property, including the disposition of property upon marital dissolution and the modification or elimination of spousal support (alimony), they may also address any other matter, including personal rights and obligations, so long as it is not in violation of public policy. One important caveat: premarital agreements cannot predetermine issues relating to children, such as setting child support or child custody perimeters.
Finally, while even shoddily-crafted prenuptial agreements may be taken into consideration in property division, it is important to obtain the help of a well-qualified lawyer to draft your premarital documents. Prenuptial agreements can be invalidated on a number of grounds, namely when they were not entered into voluntarily with full knowledge or when they are substantially unfair.
A Special Note for Small Business Owners
If you or your prospective spouse runs a small business, a prenuptial agreement is particularly important. Like other types of marital property, family businesses may be subject to equitable division. Business valuation, the tax considerations of dividing a family business and a decisions as to the fate of a business should the marriage end (will it be sold to a third party and the proceeds split, will the former spouses continue to run it together as partners, etc.) are complications that need to be addressed in a premarital agreement. All too often, small businesses shudder and fall in the wake of an ended marriage because couples put too little forethought into protecting their viability.
Call a Family Law Attorney for Information about Prenuptial Agreements
Premarital agreements can be good for you, the partner you love and your relationship together. If you are planning to get married, contact our family lawyers today to take advantage of the many versatile benefits of a premarital agreement.