In a sense, signing a prenup represents a marriage contract. No doubt you’re within your rights to think it took some of the romance out of marital vows. That said, years later, you may wonder. How long does your prenuptial agreement last?
First, you should know that New Jersey law addresses the contents of both premarital and pre-civil union agreements. More specifically, NJSA 37:2-34 sets forth what may be included in prenuptial agreements. In brief, the following are included:
- Parties’ rights and obligations as far as all aspects of property acquisition, sale, management, and control, etc.
- Disposition of property when the marriage ends or one of the parties dies.
- Spousal support, including modifications and elimination of support.
- Agreement regarding estate planning directives.
- Ownership rights as far as life insurance death benefits.
- Determination as to what state’s laws apply to the agreement.
- Other personal rights and obligations – as long as they are not in violation of public policy.
Notice a few things missing? For one, New Jersey law doesn’t make allowances for custody or child support payments within a prenup. Additionally, the statute fails to address another issue. You’ll notice there’s no requirement for an expiration date.
How long does your prenuptial agreement last? Since it’s not mandatory to include a specified term, the answer remains open. For most couples, the prenuptial agreement remains valid throughout the marriage. All things considered, the courts enforce properly drafted prenups even if they make one party unhappy.
This Prenuptial Agreement Stood the Test of Time
Even when the court decides not to publish a case, lessons can be learned. Just last week, the New Jersey Appellate Division ruled on a matter where the wife wanted to invalidate the agreement. The court’s opinion only applied to the parties but could prove relevant to your situation.
In this matter, the husband understood the prospective value of a prenuptial agreement. After two prior divorces, the husband insisted that he wouldn’t marry again without one. The parties signed the agreement and married a day later.
Notably, independent counsel for both spouses reviewed the document prior to its execution. Meanwhile, the wife’s attorney advised against her signing the premarital agreement. In fact, she acknowledged this in a separate document prepared by her lawyer.
The marriage lasted nearly twenty years. When the wife filed for divorce, she asked the court to invalidate the agreement. There was no expiration date written into the prenup. However, there’s no question that it stood the test of time.
Wife Made Several Claims
According to the case history, the parties had considerable assets. Not surprisingly, high net divorces can have added complications. And, in this matter, it meant looking back nearly two decades.
The premarital agreement addressed many issues, including those related to property acquisition and division. Although it made allowances for spousal support, both parties waived their right to assert claims related to maintaining the marital standard of living.
Initially, the wife wanted the prenup deemed unenforceable. She asserted claims of fraud, duress, and insufficient time to review the agreement. When the court ruled against her, she amended her divorce complaint to say it was unconscionable.
As far as the wife was concerned, the “agreement would render …her without a reasonable means of support.” However, that would include consideration related to the marital standard of living. Once again, the parties had agreed to waive claims related to the marital lifestyle.
The court denied the unconscionably claim and upheld the Agreement as valid and enforceable. For one, the wife’s income coupled with alimony payments would not leave her without reasonable means of support.
At the time of the divorce, the wife lived with her parents and would ultimately “inherit a minimum of [two million dollars] upon her parents’ passing.” In fact, she described her parents as wealthier than her husband.
Upon review, the Appellate Division agreed with the trial court. They reviewed the plaintiff’s financials, and summed them up as:
- $70,000 in alimony payments annually for five years
- Ability to earn $67K per year
- Assets of just over $379K
- Pension benefits of $500 month and at least $2M inheritance
As far as both courts were concerned, the plaintiff was not left without means of reasonable support.
The terms “marital standard of living” and “marital lifestyle” somewhat speak for themselves. The basis relies on how the parties lived prior to their decision to divorce. A lifestyle analysis often acts as a chief consideration in determining spousal support.
In this particular matter, two things occurred. In the first place, the prenuptial agreement specified spousal support according to the length of the marriage. Secondly, both the husband and wife waived claims related to their marital lifestyle.
One of the most critical factors in executing a prenuptial agreement includes independent attorney review. The Law Offices of Sam Stoia has assisted a number of parties with drafting and reviewing prenups. Contact our office to see how we can assist you.