Many couples use prenuptial agreements to protect each individual’s property rights in the event of a divorce. If you signed a prenuptial agreement and are now divorcing your spouse, you may be wondering if the contract is valid and enforceable. There are many circumstances in which a prenuptial agreement can be found invalid, which can result in substantial financial ramifications for both spouses. Below, we review some of the questions you should ask when attempting to determine whether a California prenuptial agreement may be unenforceable.
Both spouses must sign the prenuptial agreement of their own free will. There must be no threats, use of force, or any other coercive tactics when signing the document. If one spouse intimidated or bullied the other spouse into signing, the prenuptial agreement will not be enforceable, no matter its contents.
It is always advisable to negotiate and sign a prenuptial agreement well before your wedding date. The process can be a source of considerable stress, and, if you wait until the last minute, one spouse might be inadvertently pressured into signing. This can jeopardize the enforceability of the agreement, as one spouse may later argue they did not freely sign.
When entering a prenuptial agreement, each spouse-to-be must provide the other with a full disclosure of their financial circumstances, including a breakdown of all assets, income, and debts. This is meant to help each party verify whether the agreement is fair. However, in some cases, a spouse might willfully hide one or more assets or income streams. If a forensic investigation uncovers this sort of concealment, the prenuptial agreement may not be enforceable, as one spouse did not receive an accurate disclosure of the other’s finances.
Under California’s version of the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act, no provision of a prenuptial agreement can seek to promote divorce, limit child support, or limit a family court’s ability to decide matters of child custody. Additionally, no provision of a prenuptial agreement can attempt to enforce moral or religious standards on a spouse. If any provision of a prenuptial agreement violates the law, the entirety of the contract may be invalidated.
Prenuptial agreements can under no circumstances touch child support, child custody, or visitation. However, spouses-to-be can voluntarily waive or limit spousal support arrangements under very specific conditions. Both spouses-to-be must retain independent legal representation before signing the agreement. If you or your spouse did not get formal legal advice before signing a prenuptial agreement that addresses spousal support, the provision(s) will not be enforceable. Additionally, a provision waiving or limiting spousal support can become unenforceable even if both spouses hired attorneys. A family law judge may disallow the applicable provision(s) if the couple’s financial circumstances have significantly changed since the agreement was signed.
California law requires that prenuptial agreements be reasonably fair to both spouses. What constitutes “fairness” will often come down to the discretion of a family law judge. If certain provisions seem to disproportionately favor one spouse over the other, a judge may find the agreement unenforceable.
If you are unsure about whether your prenuptial agreement will hold up in court, it is always in your best interest to consult with an experienced legal professional. Our qualified lawyers at Cianci Law, PC can review your circumstances and determine the enforceability of an existing prenuptial agreement. If you are not yet married, our team can also help you draft a new prenuptial agreement that achieves your objectives and meets all legal requirements. We are well-versed in complex matters of family law and can provide the sound legal advice you need when navigating pre-marital agreements or a contentious divorce.
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