Prenuptial agreements, commonly known as prenups, can provide important protection for individuals entering into marriage. They are legal documents that generally outline the division of assets and financial responsibilities in case a marriage ends in divorce.
While prenups are a valuable tool for protecting individuals’ interests, certain circumstances may lead to their invalidation.
1. Duress or coercion
One significant reason a prenup may be invalid is if one party signed it under duress or coercion. Duress refers to a situation where one spouse may have used pressure or force to get the other to sign the agreement against their will.
Three to six months before the date of the wedding is a good timeframe to minimize the chances of one person feeling the need to sign as quickly as possible. Even a month or two before the wedding often does not mean adequate time.
Coercion involves threats or intimidation leading to the signing of the prenup. For a prenup to be valid, both parties must enter into the agreement willingly and without undue influence.
2. Lack of full disclosure
Transparency helps create a valid prenuptial agreement. If one party fails to disclose all their assets, debts or financial information to the other, the agreement may be invalid. A prenup is only fair and legally binding when both parties have a clear understanding of each other’s financial circumstances.
An unconscionable prenuptial agreement is one that is fundamentally unfair or one-sided. If the terms of the agreement heavily favor one party and leave the other party with inadequate financial support or protection, a court may declare it invalid. Courts typically aim to ensure that prenups are equitable and do not exploit one spouse’s vulnerability.
4. Invalid provisions
Certain provisions within a prenuptial agreement may render the entire document invalid. For example, if a prenup includes clauses that pertain to child custody or support, these sections may be unenforceable. Prenuptial agreements should focus solely on financial matters and not interfere with issues related to children.
5. Lack of legal formalities
Prenups must meet specific legal formalities. These include the requirement for both parties to have independent legal counsel and sufficient time to review and consider the agreement before signing. If the parties do not meet these formalities, the prenup may be invalid.
Similarly, verbal agreements are generally insufficient when it comes to prenuptial agreements. Prenups must be in writing and signed by both parties to be legally binding. Courts typically do not recognize a verbal prenuptial agreement, even if witnessed by others.