Discrimination against married business owner in New Jersey

I’ve owned and operated small businesses individually in my name as a married person for more than four decades. Until recently, they were all based in Pennsylvania or Delaware. I’ve had plenty of business financings, loans and mortgages, all without my spouse’s involvement. Recently I relocated them to New Jersey and hit a brick wall in discrimination against a married person here.

I am married. By premarital agreement, my spouse wants nothing to do with my home or high risk business. We kept separate finances, separate homes , autos, etc. This worked for us. All was fine until Covid. My rural coastal business was smashed and is still not reopened. I was approved for several loans but each requires spousal signature, I am told, under New Jersey state law. It was pre-decided that my spouse will not sign on any loan or business document. This stalemate dragged on until I was in serious financial trouble recently. I proposed getting a divorce “on paper” to satisfy state law. My spouse didn’t go for it. I won’t do it without her support.

I am now faced with the only remaining choice of giving up the business ownership. It feels grossly unfair. We are exploring the possibility of corporate, trust or nonprofit ownership. I still don’t know if I will be able to save the business in time.

This type of discrimination against a married person should not be allowed. I will do what I can to bring attention to this damaging part of law but have no realistic expectation that it will change. Last week I shared the story with Forbes writer Kelly Phillips Erb who was covering the issue of ‘gray divorce’ and its financial consequences. I do not know if other people are affected, but I suspect that mine is a narrow circumstance.