Prenuptial agreements are a type of legally binding contract. Marriage itself is a contract. When you utilize a prenuptial agreement, which lays out all the rules both parties agree to, there is ample clarity and insight heading into the marriage. This makes marriages stronger. It ensures each person understands the other’s expectations and needs. Then, lays the foundation for how to move away from the marriage if it does not go the way it should.

It is not about planning for divorce. Instead, it is a type of legal protection for both parties before they enter the marriage contract.

The Uniform Premarital Agreement Act (UPAA) was put into place in New Jersey in 1988. It explains that:

  • All premarital agreements must be in writing.
  • Both spouses must sign the agreement.
  • A statement of assets must be attached to it.
  • Full disclosure must be made to all involved parties.
  • The agreement must also be fair and just in a way that both parties agree.

To be effective, an agreement must be put in place prior to the marriage. That means they must be legally finalized prior to marriage to be applicable.

Why Timing Matters

As you consider prenuptial agreements, do not wait too long to put one in place. There are often many things to do and plan for heading into a marriage, but time constraints are a factor when it comes to utilizing prenuptial agreements.

Avoiding Duress Claims

One of the complications that can occur if a prenup is signed “at the last minute” is a claim of duress. That is, it may be possible for one party to claim they entered into the agreement under pressure and coercion. That could become a problem later if one party decides it is time to end the marriage.

Instead, ensure that both parties are entering into the agreement freely and without pressure. Both should agree to the importance of this process and not feel coerced in any way.

Full Disclosure and Consideration

Also, important to timing, is the need for all parties to have a clear understanding of the other’s finances.

That is not always the first conversation people have heading into a marriage, but it is something to consider before you sign the contract of marriage.

For both parties to have a full understanding of those finances, there is a need for proper and full disclosure and for financial disclosure. It is often beneficial that both parties have their own independent legal counsel heading into the marriage because of this. It enables both attorneys to fully vet the agreement. Lastly, complete any necessary due diligence to ensure each person is fully aware of what they are entering into through this contract.

Fostering Open Communication

While it may not seem like a conversation you want to have initially, a prenup is a very helpful tool for encouraging open communication within the marriage. It allows for both parties to open about finances but also can be a healthy exercise in financial transparency overall. For those people who do not recognize any “problems” at this point, there is still the benefit of talking about, working through, and discussing all aspects of financial health before you sign your marriage contract.

When you have time prior to the marriage to do this – thanks to planning for the prenuptial agreement. Early on, there is the opportunity to maintain constructive conversations about not just existing financial health but about the future, too. This is an excellent time to discuss financial goals and expectations for that first year, 10 years, and so on.

The “Right” Time for a Prenup

Is now too late for a prenup? The answer is no. You should and can put one into place at any time prior to your marriage.

However, there are advantages to doing so early, and there is no time before the marriage that is “too early.” Instead, consider these tips:

  • 1 to 3 months out: This is the ideal timeframe to put a prenup in place, though this tends to be limited in some situations.
  • 1 year out: If possible, start discussing and planning for a prenup much sooner – a full year out can provide more opportunity for discussion and even the creation of financial terms that work better for both parties.

A prenup is a way of opening the lines of communication. It ensures both parties are going into the marriage with the same expectations and goals. When you do that at least 6 months to a year out, that gives you more time to think about, be concerned, and make decisions about your future based more than on just the way you feel right now.

Weeks Not Enough

While it may be possible to enter into an agreement at the last minute, it is rarely a good idea. A prenuptial agreement entered only days or even a couple of weeks prior to the marriage could be considered a product of coercion. In all cases, try to avoid this.

We strongly encourage you to start the conversation now, long before either person feels pressured into making decisions. There often is the need for time, both to think about and to complete due diligence to ensure the decisions within the prenuptial agreement are fair and agreeable.

Before You Enter into a Marriage Contract, Speak to Our New Jersey Family Law Attorneys

At Jersey Coast Family Law, we help people resolve disputes before they even happen. Turn to our family law attorney for an appointment in our Toms River and Red Bank offices to discuss prenups and how they may fit within your goals. There is no pressure to have this conversation, but the opportunities for clarity are numerous. Talk to an attorney about your rights, limitations, and the potential benefits a prenuptial agreement can provide in your specific situation.

Set up an appointment with a New Jersey family lawyer in New Jersey now by calling 732-361-4718 to discuss your situation.