What Are Prenuptial Agreements

Prenuptial Agreements



Written by: Jamel Oeser-Sweat, Esq.

Copyright 2012

Prenuptial Agreements New York Lawyer



It’s easy to say “Rich People Use Prenuptial Agreements!” However, such a statement shows a lack of understanding of what a prenuptial agreement is. What is a prenuptial agreement?  What are Prenuptial agreements? If you are getting married, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who is going to pay the bills?
  • Is there going to be a joint bank account?
  • Once we get married, when I get my paycheck, does the money go into a separate account or into a joint account?
  • Do we want children? How many?
  • When are we planning to have children?
  • Is someone planning to go back to school?
  • Am I in school getting a professional degree? Will the degree be marital property?
  • Who will own my business once I get married?
  • Do I have life insurance?
  • Do I have a will?
  • What if my parents get sick, can they move into the house?
  • Are we going to have pets? Do I like pets?
  • How are we going to buy the place that are going to live in?
  • I have a small savings. If we need money, am I going to get my money back?
  • If we break up before getting married, what is going to happen to the ring?
  • What is a prenup?

Most of these questions are not “rich people” questions. But the answers to these questions and others like them can be a BIG DEAL! A prenuptial agreement does not just deal with big assets. A prenuptial agreement is a road map. An agenda of sorts for a life together. It should be used to start a discussion that will lead a couple to make the decisions that will be necessary to build a life together. Today’s boyfriend is tomorrow’s husband. Today’s girlfriend is tomorrow’s wife. Don’t wait until something goes wrong and you are considering divorce and hiring a divorce lawyer to ask these questions or address these topics. Once you are married, it is already more difficult to start dealing with the above questions and questions like them without creating a level of stress and duress that could have been avoided by a premarital conversation and a consultation with a lawyer that is familiar with New York Law.

Prenuptial Agreement


In New York, for divorce purposes, there are two types of property: Separate and Marital. Separate Property is property you had before the marriage. It can even be property that you would have had and gotten outside of the marriage, such as an inheritance. Marital Property is property obtained during the marriage. So you buy a house before you get married, it is separate property. Buy it after, it is marital property. However, the law really is not as simple as this explanation makes it seem. There are exceptions and ways to commingle separate property with marital property. A lawyer can explain these things to you better.

Degrees and licenses obtained during a marriage can be marital property. We should say are marital property, but lawyers don’t speak in absolutes (and this is not intended in any way to create an attorney-client relationship). That means that if you go to law school or medical school, or even clown school, while you are married, the degree is marital property. If you get divorced, it is part of the distribution of assets or equitable distribution that must be completed in order to get a divorce. Some of your future income earned as a clown may end up going to your wife! Why does that make you sad? Smile, you are a clown!

Prenuptial Agreements


Most people view prenuptial agreements with hostility and disdain. It can be an uncomfortable subject for many people. However, our firm does not take the view that a prenuptial agreement is about protecting property. Sure, it can do that. However, when we draft prenuptial agreements, we are drafting an agenda. A prenuptial agreement should be used as an agenda for discussion. The prenuptial agreement should not just cover property, wealth and assets. It should memorialize decisions made during one or more conversations in which a couple plans how hey decide to live their lives. Having a premarital discussion with your future life partner should NEVER be uncomfortable. This discussion should not center on property. You should discuss the type of lifestyle that you want to have, how many children you want to have, a five-year plan, parents, siblings, where you want to live, how bills are paid, and a road map for a life together should be constructed. Of course, it is said “life is what happens while you are planning.” That being said, as a couple, you should continue to have open discussions and evolve with the cards that are dealt to you. However, the prenuptial discussion, which is really necessary before a couple gets married, should be memorialized. It should not be a document that causes hostility between a couple but rather, a life jacket, prepared in case of emergency and tucked away for the rest of what is to be an amazing journey through life together.

Prenuptial Agreement New York Lawyer


Ask any child, nothing can be more fun than writing on a wall with chalk or crayons. As a couple, one idea for facilitating the discussion is to keep “minutes” of your conversation in chalk or crayon on a park floor or on a wall. Draw pictures. Take Pictures of what you are doing. Make it fun. Just because you are dealing with serious issues does not mean that you have to be stiff and boring. This is a conversation about the life you will spend with the person you love. Make this moment an exciting and enjoyable one! If your lawyer is a good one, he or she will accept your notes in crayon!

Images Courtesy of photostock

Crayon Heart Image “Picture Love” is Courtesy of Luigi Diamanti


courtroom-Middle OeserSweat Headshot


Jamel Oeser-Sweat, Esq. has a broad ranging legal practice.  He has assisted clients in several key areas of the law including civil and criminal litigation, intellectual property (Copyrights, Patents, Trademarks & Entertainment), immigration, corporate planning, commercial real estate, contract negotiation, internet law, civil rights law and family law among others.  Mr. Oeser-Sweat is admitted to practice in New York and New Jersey State Courts, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, the United States District Court, District of Vermont, the United States District Court, Southern District of New York, and the United States District Court, Eastern District of New York.  Mr. Oeser-Sweat has also been admitted to practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office, a distinction that has been accomplished by a small percentage of the attorneys in the United States .   As of July 5, 2005 there were only 7168 active Patent agents and 23704 active Patent attorneys in the United States.

Mr. Oeser-Sweat and Anthony Ventura defended Mario Monroe (Ventura) and Herbert Weisner (Oeser-Sweat) against murder charges in Bronx County in 2013.  After a month-long trial, the jury found that the two were not guilty of all charges.  Mr. Oeser-Sweat has represented hundreds of clients, including many celebrities, companies and start-ups.  For over a decade, he has worked with the Sunshine Suites to assist the New York City start-up community.

Mr. Oeser-Sweat attended New York University as an undergraduate where he was a Samuel F.B. Morse Scholar and received a Full Scholarship and a $20,000 Grant to continue his scientific research while at NYU.  He also participated in Student Government while at NYU and was elected Sophomore Class Representative.  After receiving a bachelors degree from New York University, Mr. Oeser-Sweat attended St. John’s University School of Law .  While at St. John’s he participated in the Black Law Student’s Association and was appointed the Chairman of the Student Bar Association Communications and Technology Committee. 

Before starting his own firm, Mr. Oeser-Sweat worked at Amster, Rothstein and Ebenstein, an intellectual property firm on Park Avenue in New York City .   While at Amster, Rothstein and Ebenstein, his responsibilities included conducting legal research, drafting memoranda of law on intellectual property issues, drafting patent prosecution, infringement & invalidity opinion documents, reviewing litigation documents to determine their responsiveness to discovery requests, identifying & logging privileged documents, and recovering domain names from trademark infringers. He was also elected Associates Committee Representative.  Before working for Amster, Rothstein and Ebenstein, Mr. Oeser-Sweat was a law clerk for the Honorable Thomas F. Liotti , Village Justice in Westbury, New York.  Mr. Oeser-Sweat worked at Mr. Liotti’s law firm in Garden City as a law clerk and as an associate and assisted and second seated Mr. Liotti in a number of Federal and State Court civil and criminal cases.  Together Mr. Oeser-Sweat and Mr. Liotti authored several scholarly works, including several articles, a book chapter on trial practice and a book.

Mr. Oeser-Sweat teamed up with the Honorable Thomas F. Liotti, and Dr. Lawrence Kobilinsky , then Associate Provost at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of The City University of New York to write DNA: Forensic and Legal Applications.  DNA: Forensic and Legal Applications is a first of its kind book which filled a void in the legal world by serving as a comprehensive reference for Judges, Lawyers, Scientists and Laypersons interested in DNA and its role in the litigation process.  The book’s foreword was written by Dr. Jan Witkowski and Dr. James Watson , a Nobel Prize Winner who along with Dr. Francis Crick won the Nobel Prize for showing the world that DNA is a double helix.  The book has received many great reviews including one which was published in the New York Law Journal.  

Before becoming an attorney, Mr. Oeser-Sweat was a scientist conducting research in the area of Microbiology.  Mr. Oeser-Sweat’s accomplishments as a scientist are just as impressive as his accomplishments as an attorney.  He was a finalist and 10th Place winner in the Westinghouse Science Talent Search (Now called the INTEL SCIENCE TALENT SEARCH ).  He received a certificate in Recombinant DNA Techniques from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine Secondary Education through Health Program.  Mr. Oeser-Sweat worked at the Mount Sinai Hospital in the Clinical Microbiology Department and along with Dr. Edward Bottone , Director of Clinical Microbiology, discovered a new route of Transmission for a disease called Pseudomonas Aeruginosa Folliculitis .  Their discovery that Pseudomonas Aeruginosa Folliculitis could be transmitted through Loofah Sponges , Wash Clothes, Pumice Stones and other exfoliative devices was widely hailed and led to publications in many peer review journals including the Journal of Clinical Microbiology , an American Society for Microbiology publication.  The team’s research into and documentation of the link between these items and Pseudomonas infections has been cited numerous times and has touched countless lives. .11.12.  Their continuing research led to one book Publisher’s (Benjamin Cummings) decision to put Mr. Oeser-Sweat’s picture on the cover of a microbiology textbook.  Mr. Oeser-Sweat was also a recipient of the NAACP-ACT-SO/NASA Superstars of Science Award.  His accomplishments were even hailed by then President of the United States Bill Clinton .  During a meeting with Mr. Clinton, Mr. Oeser-Sweat fixed Mr. Clinton’s tie, leading to a flurry of media activity which culminated in Mr. Oeser-Sweat making a comment which became one of Newsweek’s quotes of the week.

Mr. Oeser-Sweat’s journey from the streets of New York City to its Courtrooms has been chronicled by countless news and media outlets and his story was even on the Front Page of the New York Times.  A former New York One New Yorker of the week, Mr. Oeser-Sweat’s story has been chronicled in Reader’s Digest, and led to the filming of a comprehensive interview for NBC NOW (now dateline NBC).  He has been interviewed by Jane Pauley and Tom Brokaw .

As a youth, Mr. Oeser-Sweat’s family was homeless.  After spending two years fighting homelessness and living in welfare hotels and shelters, Mr. Oeser-Sweat’s family moved into public housing.  Due to his mother’s hospitalization for mental illness, Mr. Oeser-Sweat was placed in the city’s foster care system in a group home.  However, despite an upbringing filled with homelessness, poverty and challenges, he has managed to evolve into one of his generation’s rising young stars.  Mr. Oeser-Sweat’s story has been retold in countless publications, lectures and has been used in educational materials for years.  His story has been told in several languages around the world including Spanish, Chinese and Korean .

Mr. Oeser-Sweat’s commitment to youth and the community is evidenced in the fact that he is on the Board of Directors of the Supportive Children’s Advocacy Network , a social service agency in New York City with sites in the Bronx, Harlem and Midtown and which serves as one of the city’s largest Provider’s of afterschool services. Mr. Oeser-Sweat’s accomplishments and story led Executive Director Lew Zuchman (a former freedom Rider) to create “Reach For The Stars”, a program that provides programs and services for hundreds of adolescents in New York City and has been responsible for sending dozens of young men and women to some of the nation’s leading Preparatory Schools.

Mr. Oeser-Sweat current serves on the Board of Directors of Northridge Cooperative, Section II, Inc. in Jackson Heights, New York.