Prenuptial agreements generally carry a negative connotation. Many people believe they imply mistrust or lack of faith that a marriage will work out. In reality, prenuptial agreements can help resolve complex financial matters before they even start, and offer peace of mind in a new marriage, particularly in one with spouses who have significant wealth and assets.
Despite the apparent peace of mind and financial security a prenuptial agreement may offer, many individuals find that their prenuptial agreements are one-sided, misleading, or even fraudulent. Additionally, the circumstances involved in the creation and signing of a prenuptial agreement can affect its validity and enforceability in the future.
Unenforceable Prenuptial Agreements in California
Both parties who sign a prenuptial agreement have the right to legal counsel during the creation of the contract. If one party did not have legal counsel at the time of signing, then a judge would likely consider the contract unenforceable.
There are several other possible elements that could render a prenuptial agreement unenforceable:
- One party signed the agreement under duress or threat of injury. Judges will not enforce any contract signed under duress.
- If the contract includes incomplete information, a judge will probably throw it out. If one spouse hid assets subject to inclusion in the agreement or the contract does not cover required stipulations, these facts may constitute grounds to throw out the agreement.
- Falsified information will also constitute grounds for throwing out a prenuptial agreement; a judge will not enforce a contract produced using fraudulent information.
- Invalid provisions also invalidate a prenuptial agreement. For example, one spouse cannot contract the other out of child support. Including such a provision would invalidate the agreement.
- Lopsided provisions, or awarding a disproportionate amount of marital assets to one spouse over the other would also likely qualify as grounds for breaking a prenuptial agreement.
If any of these elements exist in a prenuptial agreement, it is not enforceable and technically never was enforceable. However, some seemingly rock-solid prenuptial agreements may actually be unenforceable depending on the circumstances of the signing of the agreement. If there is any room for debate that a particular element qualifies a contract for invalidation, the appearance of multiple discrepancies will usually compel a judge to nullify the contract.
When a San Francisco Contract Signing Does Not Legally Count
Duress is just one circumstance that would invalidate the signing of a prenuptial contract; each party must have access to legal counsel and reasonable time to fully consider the stipulations of the contract before signing. Coercion may also invalidate the signing of a contract; however, the coercion must be severe in nature to justify invalidation. One signer verbally convincing the other to sign or rationalizing the benefits of signing would not qualify as coercion and invalidate the contract, but overt threats would.
If you have concerns about the enforceability of your prenuptial agreement, it is vital to carefully assess the conditions of your signing the agreement and the exact wording of the stipulations in the agreement. Consult an experienced divorce attorney about your concerns and ask for a close review of the elements of your prenuptial agreement. An attorney should be able to quickly assess whether any aspects are unenforceable or nullify the contract.
A prenuptial agreement, when properly and fairly conceived, can provide peace of mind and certainty for marrying couples. In the event the marriage ends, the prenuptial agreement stipulates each spouse’s property rights and obligations so there is usually no need for intense litigation or heated property division negotiations; each party simply abides by the terms of the agreement. However, it is crucial to ensure a prenuptial agreement meets state and local requirements, includes fair and reasonable provisions for both parties, and does not infringe on either signer’s rights.
Speak with a Skilled Divorce Attorney
If you’re in doubt as to whether your prenuptial agreement will stand throughout your divorce, contact our office today to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys.