We live in an age where people are living longer and healthier lives; the match-making industry is thriving; and avenues to meet new people, whether it be virtually or in person, seem to increase every day. As a result, single adults have a greater ability than ever before to meet that special someone. Divorced or widowed individuals, who may have believed that a second chance at love was not possible in a prior era, now have a bevy of options to pursue a new relationship.
Second marriages are now common place. However, just like any relationship, second marriages come with questions and complexities that must be considered (preferably) in advance of the marriage. One of the most important issues to consider, especially in situations where one or both of the spouses-to-be enter a new marriage with significant assets, is how to deal with these premarital assets. When one spouse has a premarital interest in a business; real estate; liquid and/or retirement funds; personal property or other such assets that spouse must consider whether he or she should take steps to protect them from division with his or her spouse in the unfortunate event that the parties are later divorced.
Under New Jersey law, premarital assets are exempt from equitable distribution (i.e., division between the parties) in the event of a divorce. However, premarital assets can be converted into a marital asset in a variety of ways. For example, if a premarital asset titled solely in the name of one spouse is subsequently put into the joint names of the spouses, that asset will then likely be considered marital property subject to equitable distribution. Moreover, if monies earned during the marriage are commingled with (i.e. deposited into) a premarital account, that account may then be considered subject to equitable distribution. Even if a business is maintained in the sole name of the spouse who brought that asset into the marriage, the growth in value of that business during the marriage may be deemed a marital asset.
Entering into a prenuptial agreement is the best way to protect premarital assets from equitable distribution and becoming a part of the marital estate. Recently, the law in New Jersey has changed making prenuptial agreements easier to enforce upon divorce. Individuals entering into a second marriage who have questions regarding protection of their premarital assets should consult with an attorney to obtain a full understanding of the options available.
*John P. Paone, Jr., Esq. and Megan S. Murray, Esq. are family law attorneys and partners with the Law Offices of Paone, Zaleski, Brown & Murray, with offices in Red Bank and Woodbridge, New Jersey.