Challenging a Prenuptial Agreement
Prenups are widely regarded as dangerous and unpleasant. Many people believe that they imply distrust or a lack of confidence in a marriage’s success. In reality, prenuptial agreements can aid with complicated financial issues before they ever arise and provide peace of mind in a new marriage. Couples concerned about safeguarding existing assets, future income, or anticipated inheritances might consider negotiating a prenuptial agreement. Divorce is never an easy time, and one of the most challenging issues to negotiate is property division and spousal support. Anticipating these topics ahead of time may help each spouse know where they stand if the marriage fails.
However, simply because a contract was prepared in anticipation of marriage does not ensure it will not be argued or found invalid. When divorce is on the plate, people may discover that their agreements are one-sided, deceptive, or even fraudulent. Additionally, the circumstances surrounding the creation and signing of a prenuptial agreement might affect its validity and enforceability in the future.
Challenging or invalidating a prenuptial agreement relies on invalidating either the contract itself or specific terms within the agreement. Examples may include:
A spouse falsified information or withheld assets that should have been included in the agreement.
Both spouses must reveal any obligations or assets they have during the drafting of a prenuptial agreement. Those debts and assets must be valued correctly, and they must be provided as discovery opens. If, for example, one spouse hides assets, devalues them, or inflates liabilities to gain an advantage in the formation of the agreement, it could be invalidated.
A party was under duress or the threat of bodily harm when signing the contract.
Like any other legal document, a prenuptial agreement is not valid unless both parties voluntarily agree to it. A contract could be considered involuntary if one person agreed due to coercion, intimidation, or deception. An agreement may also be considered involuntary if a party lacked the capacity to understand the contract due to illness, mental deficiency, or age.
The agreement does not adhere to legal standards and laws.
Prenups must meet certain legal standards in order to be valid, including that they are written, witnessed, notarized, and signed before the wedding. If a prenup is not properly completed, the entire contract may be rendered void.
The agreement provides an unfair amount of marital assets to one spouse and/or would impose significant financial distress.
Prenups should not be excessively one-sided. A court might view an overly one-sided prenup as “unconscionable.” Even if both individuals agreed to the terms, a prenuptial agreement that is grossly unfair can be invalidated. If circumstances change so significantly over time that an originally fair agreement becomes unconscionable by the end of the marriage, it may be deemed invalid.
A party did not have legal counsel at the time they signed.
Both parties must be given the option to obtain legal advice regarding the contract. Because of conflicts of interest, they may not use the same attorney, and if one party wants to waive their right to counsel, they must do so in writing.
The grounds for challenging or invalidating a prenuptial agreement differ from state to state, but courts typically prefer to uphold contracts and will only consider the invalidating if a significant issue is presented. Prenuptial agreements play a critical role in divorce cases and should be reviewed by an experienced legal professional. If you have any concerns regarding the legality of your prenuptial agreement, it is important to contact an attorney.