Some people view prenuptial agreements as “planning for divorce,” but they’re so much more than that. In many cases, prenuptial agreements work to keep marital assets separate, protect spouses from debt, and more. However, you might be wondering if you can “void” a premarital agreement if you’re facing a divorce. Here’s what you need to know about prenuptial contracts and the divorce process.
Do Prenuptial Agreements Always Hold Up in Court?
Each state has unique laws regarding prenuptial agreements, but most court systems have adopted the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act (UPAA). However, different jurisdictions can and have tweaked this statute so that laws can vary slightly. However, most of the central tenets remain the same. Under the UPAA, certain principles can affect the validity of the agreement, including:
Certain jurisdictions may require that a sufficient time pass between signing the prenup and holding the ceremony. California requires at least seven days between the two. Failure to observe an appropriate time frame could nullify a marriage contract.
The courts will often look for signs that a person signed a prenuptial agreement under duress. For example, if an entire wedding is already paid for and a party threatens to cancel if the spouse does not sign the prenup, this could be construed as duress. Any contract signed under duress is null under California law.
California’s Representation Rule
Adequate representation can also affect the validity of a prenuptial agreement, at least in the state of California. The state’s version of UPAA mandates that each spouse hire an independent attorney to review the prenuptial contract and advise them of their rights. Failure to observe this step could nullify the contract.
Making False Promises
In some cases, a premarital contract could be null and void if one spouse lies or makes false promises. In this case, one spouse could argue that the basis of the contract was fraudulent. For example, if one spouse only discloses half of their true assets and one spouse did not know about the extent of the other spouse’s wealth, then the contract is likely to be void.
The terms of a prenuptial agreement may also be void if the courts determine that they are “unconscionable.” An unconscionable contract is one in which the terms seem so one-sided or grossly unfair that a judge may wonder about the circumstances in which the spouse signed it. For example, if a spouse retained control of all assets before and during the marriage and the other spouse has no right to an equitable division of property, then the courts might nullify a contract because the terms are unconscionable.
Incorrect Filing Procedure
A premarital contract may be null and void for the simple reason that the paperwork wasn’t filed correctly. It’s important to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s before filing the prenup with the appropriate court system; otherwise, the courts could find it invalid.
Finally, you may find that your marital contract is null and void if unforeseen circumstances occur that would drastically change two people’s financial situation. For example, spouses may be on an equal financial footing at the start of a marriage, but one spouse may face circumstances that affect his or her ability to support him or herself. He or she may have voided the right to alimony in the prenuptial agreement, but unforeseen circumstances may void the agreement in this case.
Prenuptial agreements can serve several important purposes, but they’re not always ironclad. The reasons listed above could lead to the courts nullifying the agreement and subjecting the couple to an equitable division of property and assets.