Intra-Marital Agreements / Mid-Marriage Agreements
The intra-marital agreement, also known as a mid-marriage agreement or ante-nuptial agreement is a relatively new concept that has been addressed by the Appellate Division in New Jersey only once, in the case of Pacelli v. Pacelli. In that case, the Appellate Division determined that intra-marital agreements are enforceable only if the agreement is fair and equitable at the time of its entry and remains fair and equitable at the time of its sought enforcement.
A simple interpretation is that in a Prenuptial Agreement, while pressure exists on both parties due to an impending marriage, each party remains free to make their own decisions and look out for what is best for them. They are also free to walk away from a marriage that hasn't occurred yet, with little or no financial penalty. This presumes of course that both parties have sufficient time and advice prior to entering into a prenuptial agreement. If they don't, the agreement is sure to be challenged if the parties divorce.
When a marriage is over, save the entry of a Judgment by the court, the parties can enter into a property settlement agreement. As with the prenuptial agreement, the parties are free to make their own decisions based on what is in their best interest. They will also have a lawyer in their corner providing advice.
In a mid-marriage agreement however, the potential for abuse and the leveraging of power by one individual over another is high.
While some mid-marriage agreements are entered into with the best of intentions, it is strongly advisable that both parties have their own counsel to advise them and, more importantly, that both parties actually listen to and accept what the lawyer they have hired has to say.