Whether you were married decades ago or only a few years ago, you may have found comfort in the fact that you and your spouse signed a prenuptial agreement. No matter what happened, you already knew the outcome if your marriage were to dissolve. Or did you?
Now you and your spouse have decided to part ways, and that agreement you thought you could rely on may not be as reliable as you once thought it was. There are circumstances that can make a prenuptial agreement unenforceable, such as if either spouse signed it under duress or was coerced or if one spouse did not disclose all of their financial information. Even if you have a prenuptial agreement, it is a good idea to schedule a consultation with a skilled Pennsylvania divorce attorney so that there are no surprises during your divorce. If the court determines your prenup is not legally enforceable, you will need a well-versed divorce lawyer on your side representing your interests.
With approximately half of all marriages ending in divorce in America these days, it is no wonder couples planning a wedding are seeking to protect their assets in the event of a divorce with a prenuptial agreement.
A prenuptial agreement, casually known as a prenup, is an agreement made between a couple who are about to get married. This tool helps a couple set the financial rights of each spouse if the marriage ends in divorce at any point in the future. A prenup can help protect a family business and secure personal assets. A soon-to-be-married couple has many options when it comes to what they want to agree upon in their prenup, including who gets specific property, pets, or even a business.
Like any other legally binding document, a prenup has to be done right in order to be valid. If any part of the prenup is not legitimate, it will not be enforceable under the law.
What Makes a Prenup Invalid?
There are a variety of factors that can invalidate a prenuptial agreement. These potentially useful and time-saving tools must meet specific requirements, or the divorce will proceed as if they never existed. Here are the most common reasons a prenup is found not to be valid:
- Not done in writing: A verbal prenuptial agreement will do no good as it is your word against that of your spouse. To be enforceable, a prenup must be done in writing.
- Not signed: A prenup that is not properly executed by both spouses is not worth anything more than the paper it is written on. Each spouse must sign that they agree to the terms of the prenup.
- Done under pressure or decreased mental capacity: If you or your spouse were pressured by the other spouse, their attorney, their family, or anyone else to sign the agreement, it might be found invalid. If one spouse was coerced or was under the influence of alcohol or drugs when the contract was signed, it is likely to be invalid.
- Wasn’t read: If one spouse placed a bunch of papers in front of the other before the marriage and quickly asks them to sign it, there is a chance it may not be enforceable even if both spouses signed it.
- Lack of time to consider: Each spouse must be given time to review the prenup agreement and think about whether or not they want to sign it. Prenups handed to one spouse immediately preceding the vows will likely be deemed invalid.
- Invalid provisions: Prenups can cover nearly any aspect of a couple’s finances and assets. However, it cannot address child support obligations that either spouse could owe if they have children when or if their marriage ends. It is worth noting that the court could strike some invalid parts of the agreement, leaving some still valid and standing.
- Wrong information: A prenup must be signed only after each party has had full disclosure of their income, assets, debts, and liabilities. If one spouse is not honest in providing such information, the entire agreement may not be enforceable, especially if the other spouse can prove they were not providing accurate information when the prenup was signed.
- Missing information: Intentionally leaving information out of the prenup or hidden from your spouse is as bad as giving false information. Doing so will likely render the agreement unenforceable when the time comes.
- Lack of individual legal counsel: With a prenup, each spouse has their own interests at stake. Due to this fact, each spouse should be represented by their personal attorney. If they are not, the agreement may not be enforceable in court.
- Unconscionability: Couples have a wide range of freedom within prenup agreements. One spouse can agree to take all the debt, and none of the assets, if a divorce occurs, one could agree not to seek alimony; still, even another can forgo their right to inherit anything from their spouse. However, if the prenup is markedly unfair to one spouse who would suffer severe financial hardship while allowing the other to live soundly, the court will be unlikely to enforce the agreement. This type of contract is generally not enforced by the court, even if it is a prenup agreement.
Get the Most Out of Your Prenuptial Agreement with Help from a Divorce Attorney in Pennsylvania
Going through a divorce can be one of the most stressful times of life for many Americans. Having a prenup in place can help make this process less stressful, but only if it is a valid prenup.
Whether you need to find out if your prenup is enforceable in court or you want to create a prenup, our team of experienced divorce attorneys is here to help. We can review your agreement to help determine its potential validity and what your next steps should be. Call Petrelli Previtera Schimmel, LLC today at (215) 523-6900, chat with a live agent, or schedule your consultation >online to get started.