MEETING OPTIONS DURING THE CORONAVIRUS: The Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen understands your concerns regarding the spread of the Coronavirus, and now offers different meeting options to our clients and those seeking legal representation. All meetings, including initial consultations, can be handled either through the phone, FaceTime, Zoom, or in person.

Postnuptial Agreements

A Mid-Marriage Agreement is a written document that explains how a currently married couple will divide their property upon divorce. It is different from a Pre-Nuptial agreement, which are made before a couple is married. New Jersey courts treat these two types of agreements very differently, enforcing a properly executed pre-nuptial agreement more frequently than a mid-marriage agreement.

Arms Length – The Difference Between Pre-Nuptial and Mid-Marriage Agreements

One of the reasons courts enforce pre-nuptial agreements more than mid-marriage agreements is that pre-nuptial agreements have generally allowed the parties an opportunity to negotiate at “arms length”. This contract law principle means that the parties are acting independently. Since the couple has not yet wed when they sign a pre-nuptial agreement, they are acting as two single people. The chance for one party to coerce the other party into signing the agreement is lower in this type of agreement.

With a mid-marriage agreement, however, the couple has already married and thus the parties are not at arms length, they are not simply two independent people to a contract, but rather they are two separate people that are also a family unit. New Jersey courts closely scrutinize these types of agreements because the chance of one party coercing the other party into signing a mid-marriage agreement is higher. For example, if one spouse desperately wants to stay married while the other spouse wants to divorce, the spouse who wants to divorce may coerce the other spouse into parting with financial assets in order to stay married.

Reasons for Mid-Marriage Agreements

Couples enter into mid-marriage agreements for varying reasons, but the underlying goal is to make clear their intentions for how to handle finances after the marriage ends. A couple does not need to be contemplating divorce in order to enter into a mid-marriage agreement. Significant changes in the finances of the couple or increasing marital conflict are common reasons for creating a mid-marriage agreement.

New Jersey’s Leading Mid-Marriage Agreement Case - Pacelli v. Pacelli

Mid-Marriage agreements are relatively new to the courts, with a 1999 case being the first time the New Jersey courts dealt with them. In Pacelli, a husband and wife were married in 1975, had two children, and then signed a mid-marriage agreement in 1986. The agreement stated that the wife would receive $500,000 if they divorced. Against the advice of her attorney, the wife signed the agreement. The couple stayed married until 1994, when the husband filed for divorce and sought to enforce the mid-marriage agreement.

At the time the mid-marriage agreement was signed in 1986, the husband represented that his net worth was $4.7 million, $1.7 million more than when the parties married. In 1994 when the parties divorced, the husband was worth over $11 million.

The New Jersey Appellate Division did not enforce the mid-marriage agreement in this case. To be enforceable, the court said that the agreement must have been fair at the time it was made and at the time it was to be enforced. In Pacelli, the agreement was not fair when made nor when the husband sought to enforce it. The standard laid out in Pacelli is difficult to meet, due to changing economic circumstances over time.

If you wish to enter into a mid-marriage agreement or have been asked to sign one, you need legal representation. Call the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen at 201-845-7400 for a consultation.


Pacelli v. Pacelli , 319 N.J.Super 185 (App.Div.1999)

Client Reviews
Peter has integrity, and values his relationships with his clients beyond his financial relationship with them. For me to say this about any lawyer is really saying something. He is compassionate, straightforward and knowledgeable. I would easily recommend him to anybody. Lewie W.
Peter Van Aulen handled my case with great diligence and integrity. He is also a compassionate individual who realizes what a difficult time divorce can be emotionally. Peter works hard and doesn't take any shortcuts in preparing for a case… I highly recommend Mr. Van Aulen and his staff. Chuck Solomon
Peter is an exceptionally great attorney. He handled my child custody case and was able to ease any of my concerns with honest answers. He always took the time to explain the pros/cons and was always available to answer any questions that I had… I would highly recommend this attorney to anyone who is looking for one. Jessica Cruz
Peter Van Aulen is a very compassionate, honest and straightforward person. He was there for me at my lowest point with a genuine concern not only for my situation, but for me and my child's well being above all… He is fair and he is strong and when push comes to shove he is there for you. Cathy Dodge
Our cousin used Peter's law office to help with a sticky custody situation. He was extremely responsive, very nice and most importantly did an awesome job with the court! He is awesome. Lawrence Polsky

*Results may vary depending on your particular facts and legal circumstances