A prenuptial agreement is a contract drawn between individuals who are about to be married. It is often used when one or both spouses have significant assets independent of the other and wish to protect those assets if the marriage ends in divorce. However, these are not always ironclad documents, and they can be challenged in court. Throughout a marriage, circumstances can change, which may mean that the original intent of the agreement is no longer valid.
By understanding prenuptial agreements, you can be prepared to challenge or defend the agreement, should you encounter legal complications.
Attacking a Prenuptial Agreement
When a couple gets married, they enter an agreement to share their lives together. It is a legally binding contract that can also only be undone by the law. Entering into a prenuptial agreement is similar in that, once established, it is difficult to challenge. However, it is not impossible to dispute the agreement if the right set of circumstances exist. These include:
- There was undue influence at the time of the agreement.
- One spouse was put under duress by the other.
- There was a lack of understanding by one party.
- All the information was not fully disclosed.
- The spouse who is challenging the agreement recognizes that it will not fulfill their basic needs.
- It is no longer considered fair and reasonable at the time it is to be enforced.
- It was created under misconception or fraud.
- It goes against public policy.
The legal process surrounding these agreements is structured to reduce the chances of the above-mentioned circumstances from occurring. Both parties involved must have independent legal counsel at the time they sign an agreement to ensure that they fully understand its contents. Modifications may be made if both parties agree and they do so through legal avenues.
These all present ways in which a prenuptial agreement can be attacked by one party. In short, there must be proof that:
- The circumstances surrounding the document’s origination were invalid.
- The circumstances of the couple have changed, and enforcing the document would mean that one spouse will be unable to meet their basic needs after the divorce.
Defending a Prenuptial Agreement
While one spouse is attacking the agreement, another needs to defend it. Challenging a prenuptial agreement can only happen because of one of the above circumstances. However, it doesn’t mean that your spouse may not try to do so anyway. Defending your agreement not only requires the services of a qualified attorney, but you must also ensure that you keep your prenuptial agreement up to date and modified as necessary.
When your spouse attacks the prenuptial agreement, they likely feel it is unfair to them. For example, you may own a business that was doing well when you were married, but now it has taken off and is doing even better. Your spouse may not be entitled to any of it because, in your prenuptial agreement, you both agreed that the business was yours because you established it before the marriage.
Unfortunately, your spouse sees the success and now feels that they have a claim. They may then seek to challenge the agreement. However, they may not be successful if it is based on fairness. If the success of the business was because your spouse agreed to stay at home with the children so that your focus could be on the business, leaving them without any assets of their own, they may have a claim because they may not be able to meet their basic financial needs.
To defend a prenuptial agreement, you must ensure that everything has been done properly in its creation and development. Granting full disclosure of assets, bank accounts, and other information can keep your spouse from claiming that there were falsities or fraudulent actions that caused the document to be signed under false pretenses. Working with an attorney can help ensure that a prenuptial agreement is defendable.
Q: What Is the 7-Day Rule for Prenups in California?
A: California law is very clear on establishing a prenup. There are certain circumstances that must be met for the agreement to be valid, two of which are the biggest. The first is that each party must have an independent attorney look over the agreement prior to signing it. The second is that a full 7 days must pass from the time that the agreement is presented to when it is signed.
Q: What Are the Limitations of a Prenuptial Agreement in California?
A: Prenuptial agreements can cover a wide variety of marital elements, but they cannot cover day-to-day decisions or issues. For instance, a prenuptial agreement can state what could happen in a divorce for spousal support and property division, but it cannot dictate the number of children you are going to have. It also cannot decide what religious organization you belong to nor what company you may work for, among other personal choices.
Q: Is a Prenup Valid After 10 Years in California?
A: Unless specifically identified within the prenuptial agreement itself, there is no expiration date for these documents. Once a prenuptial agreement is signed, it is considered fully enforceable in perpetuity. The only way that the prenuptial agreement becomes invalid is if there are modifications made to it or it was signed while one or both parties were not of sound mind, body, or reasoning to do so.
Q: What Voids a Prenup in California?
A: Prenuptial agreements are long-lasting contracts that require both parties to ensure that they understand what they are signing. They must be of sound mind and body at the time. If you sign a prenup while intoxicated, under duress, out of fear, or under false pretenses, the document will be considered void because you were not in the mindset to make a fair and reasonable judgment concerning its terms.
California Family Law Attorney
People sometimes have negative misconceptions about prenuptial agreements. Some may feel that one spouse is attempting to hide something from the other or hurt the other spouse. However, they can also offer both spouses a significant amount of protection if the marriage dissolves. If you have questions about your prenuptial agreement, contact the attorneys at Hayes Family Law and let our team help you with the answers.