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When can you challenge a prenuptial agreement in divorce court?

It has become common for people to enter into marriage only after setting certain terms with their future spouse in case they divorce. Most of the time, prenuptial agreements are mutually beneficial documents that make things easier if they decide to divorce.

A prenuptial agreement set specific terms that allow for faster, uncontested divorce proceedings. Instead of litigating their issues and fighting in court, the couple can just submit paperwork based on their prior agreement and move on with their life.

However, not everyone looking at a potential divorce is happy about the terms of their prenuptial agreement. When is it possible for someone to challenge their prenup in court and have it invalidated?

When the terms in the agreement are unconscionable

A valid contract requires that each party receive something of valuable consideration. In a prenuptial agreement, it is important that each spouse receive certain protections in the documents.

If one spouse drafts a prenuptial agreement that says all their earnings are separate property and their stay-at-home spouse receives nothing in the event of a divorce, the uneven terms that offer nothing to the dependent spouse might be grounds for a judge to set such an agreement aside and enter a different ruling in a divorce.

When there are errors in the documents or it breaks state law

Some people make mistakes in a document that could invalidate it, such as terms that directly contradict state law. Failing to properly sign the document or improper use of language in the agreement could also mean that the courts don’t uphold the agreement if one spouse challenges it. 

When one spouse didn’t have adequate representation

Another common issue that can invalidate a prenuptial agreement is when one spouse drafts the agreement with their own attorney and then just has the other spouse sign it. Each spouse should have their own attorney and possibly make their own conclusions in the agreement.

Even if the document isn’t completely one-sided, the courts may toss it out if only one spouse had representation or a role in the creation of the document.

When someone signed the documents under duress

The contract is only valid when people enter into it of their own accord. Forcing or coercing someone into signing a contract makes it unenforceable. Threatening someone to get them to sign a prenup could invalidate the contract.

Feeling as though there was no option but to sign, such as when a pregnant woman hears from the father of her child that he will not marry her or acknowledge her child unless she signs, can also constitute duress.

Reviewing the document and the circumstances around its signing can give you an idea about whether your prenuptial agreement will hold up during divorce proceedings.

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