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Is your prenuptial agreement a valid legal document?

A hastily created prenuptial agreement may not be a valid legal document. If you and your spouse have entered into a prenup -- and you want to enforce it or try to get it invalidated -- you should review the following reasons why these agreements sometimes fail in court.

The information that follows will also be useful to anyone planning to create or sign a prenup in the immediate future.

Reasons why a prenuptial agreement might not be valid

One false move when drafting or signing a prenuptial agreement could cause the entire agreement to be thrown out by a family court judge during the divorce process. Sometimes, a judge will simply strike a problematic clause, but a judge might also invalidate the entire agreement. Here's what signers and drafters of prenups need to avoid in this regard:

  • One of the spouses didn't read it: It's not unheard of for a spouse to ask someone to sign a stack of papers, and thereby get the other spouse to inadvertently sign a prenup. The prenup will not be legally enforceable in these cases.
  • Not enough time to consider the agreement: A rushed prenup is an invalid prenup. Both spouses need enough time to fully consider the ramifications of the document.
  • Invalid provisions in the document: There are certain things a prenup can't control -- like child support amounts -- and an attempt to include invalid clauses could render the agreement moot or give the court cause to strike the offending provision from the agreement.
  • The agreement wasn't written: As a matter of law, prenups generally can't be oral agreements. You must codify them in a written, properly executed document for them to be enforceable.
  • Improper execution: When executing or signing the prenup, the signing must happen before the marriage -- preferably several weeks or more before. They should also sign the agreement in front of a notary or the appropriate amount of witnesses depending on the laws that come into play.
  • One of the spouses faced pressure: Pressure to sign a prenuptial agreement -- either pressure by family members or a lawyer -- will invalidate a prenup in a heartbeat.
  • No legal representation: As an absolute must, both spouses must have independent legal counsel to advise them on the terms of the prenup. Failure to acquire counsel could mean that one of the spouses didn't understand.

Do you need to navigate a prenuptial agreement dispute?

Whether you're defending a prenuptial agreement or fighting an invalid one, you will want to fully understand your legal rights and options before doing so. Since a disagreement like this could cost or save you a great deal of money, make sure you handle any prenuptial agreement dispute carefully and appropriately.

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