Prenuptial agreements, which are contracts signed before a couple ties the knot, have long been used by couples who have high-value assets or "family money" to protect what they have coming into the marriage. They're also typically used to protect the spouse with deeper pockets from losing a significant portion of his or her wealth in a divorce.
However, prenups aren't always as solid as people like to think. Here are a few of the top reasons a prenup can be declared invalid:
-- You were pressured into signing it.
If the prenup was put into your hands shortly before the wedding and you were faced with the choice of either canceling your plans with 200 of your closest friends and relatives or signing, the court will likely find the prenup invalid.
Similarly, if you weren't given time to read the prenup over or were pushed into signing it by your spouse, his or her relatives, or even the family attorney without a chance to take it to your own attorney for advice, the court may find that to be an unreasonable amount of pressure and invalidate it.
-- You didn't have all the facts when you signed.
It isn't uncommon for a wealthy spouse to have more financial sophistication than a spouse coming from more modest means. Sometimes the wealthier spouse will try to keep another one from knowing just how much money or assets are available. If the prenup failed to disclose significant assets or wealth, that can be considered fraud and a valid reason to dismiss it.
-- It contains unconscionable or invalid provisions.
Prenups can be highly particular, but some take things to the extreme. In many cases, a judge will refuse to enforce a prenup that's clearly lopsided and unfair to one of the spouses. For example, a prenup that won't allow you anything in a divorce except the clothing you had when you got married probably won't be enforced. Neither will prenups that seek to penalize you financially for things like gaining weight.
Prenups also can't be used to skirt the law. For example, the court won't honor provisions that waive child support because that's against the law.
If you think that the prenup that you signed is lopsided and unfair for some reason, a divorce and family law attorney can provide more information on what is allowed and will be considered valid.