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Governor Signs New Jersey Law on Prenups

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recently signed a new law that applies to prenuptial or pre-civil union agreements.

The law revises the New Jersey Uniform Premarital and Pre-Civil Union Agreement Act, and makes it more difficult to revise a prenup if the couple later divorces.

A prenup is a legal agreement in which a couple decides before marriage how property and other issues will be resolved in the event of divorce. A prenup can reduce uncertainty, stress, and the expense and time needed to resolve disputes when a couple separates.

The new law may make couples less likely to enter into prenups, because it makes the agreements harder to change if circumstances change. Under the former law, a prenup could be modified or overturned if there was a substantial change in circumstances.

Under the old law, a prenup could be invalidated by a court if its conditions were deemed "unconscionable" at the time of divorce and if one party brought a petition to overrule the terms.

One example of an "unconscionable" situation would be if one party would receive most of the couple's assets at a time when the other party was unemployed or disabled.

Under the new law, the definition of "unconscionable" is narrower. Also, the agreement must have been "unconscionable" at the time it was signed - not just at the time of the divorce.

According to the new law, if one future spouse didn't know the extent of the other's assets at the time of marriage, and hadn't waived the right to know, that would be considered "unconscionable." But if both parties understood the terms of the agreement and the extent of the other's assets at issue, then the agreement would be upheld, even if this later caused a hardship for one of the spouses.

Many couples with prenups put off signing until the last minute before the wedding. This can lead to bad feelings and a sense that one party is pressuring or even bullying the other to sign. It' s far better for both parties to each consult with their own family law attorney well in advance of the wedding, to make sure that they understand the agreement and resolve any ambiguities.

If you have questions about prenuptial agreements or any other family law issue, contact an experienced family law attorney at the New Jersey Law Offices of Greenberg, Walden & Grossman, LLC.

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