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How to Nullify a Prenuptial Agreement

How to Nullify a Prenuptial Agreement

Before starting the separation or divorce process, scrutinizing prenups may reveal grounds to have them, or parts of them, voided. The court will only void such contracts under certain circumstances. Although once considered only for the extremely wealthy, more and more everyday couples use prenuptial agreements. Signed in advance of their weddings, however, the terms of some couple’s prenuptial agreements may no longer suit their situations at the end of their marriages.

Prenuptial agreements are legal contracts between spouses entered into before getting legally wed. While state laws stipulate the settlement of issues at the end of a marriage, they do not fit every marriage. Therefore, couples may consider prenups to detail the legal rights they acquire or give up with their marriages. Such contracts also spell out exactly what happens with couples’ assets and finances during their marriages, as well as if they get divorced.

How to Dissolve a Prenuptial Agreement

Arlington Heights Divorce Lawyer Roger Stelk

To determine how to nullify a prenuptial agreement, most Chicago divorce attorneys will review the contract for ways to challenge its validity. They may ask questions to learn more about the circumstances of the signing of the agreement. Some things legal representatives may ask include the following:

  • When did the couple sign the prenup?
  • How much did each partner know about the other’s finances before signing?
  • Has either partner’s financial situation substantially changed since the signing?
  • Did each partner have the opportunity to review the agreement before signing?

In order to nullify a prenuptial agreement, dissolving couples must meet certain criteria.

Grounds to Nullify a Prenup

The most common grounds to dissolve a prenuptial agreement include coercion or duress, unconscionability, and failure to disclose. The courts will generally enforce prenuptial agreements; however, when one or more of these grounds exist, the court may see fit to void all or parts of a prenup.

Signing a prenuptial agreement by coercion or under duress may give cause to invalidate the contract. For instance, if one person presents the prenup the day before the wedding, the other may feel forced to sign to move forward. Additionally, he or she may not have had the time to properly review the document before agreeing to its conditions. People may also seek to have their prenuptial agreements thrown out due to coercion or duress if they were under the influence of drugs or were seriously ill at the time they signed the contracts.

The court often will not enforce unconscionable prenuptial agreements. Unconscionability involves contracts that deliberately and demonstrably favor one partner over the other. However, this does not necessarily mean the court will invalidate prenups simply because their terms grant more assets or property to one spouse. Rather, the court may not uphold contracts that would leave the dependent spouses destitute or otherwise living in a substantially inadequate quality of life.

For example, the court may void a prenuptial agreement that allows each spouse to acquire separate properties over the course of their marriage if one partner operated a successful local business, while the other stayed home and raised the children. In addition to running the business, the working spouse used some earnings to invest in separate properties. The stay-at-home spouse contributed to the marriage by caring for the children instead of earning income outside the home. As such, the court may find a contract that leaves him or her with essentially no shared assets unconscionable and, therefore, voidable.

If a spouse neglects to disclose assets, business holdings, or other interests of value to his or her partner, the court may see fit not to enforce a prenuptial agreement’s terms. When signing a prenup, each party should fully understand the rights that doing so gives up. Since each partner’s income and wealth will determine things such as property division or the amount of alimony awarded, both spouses must have full knowledge when entering a prenuptial agreement. For instance, before signing the prenup, one spouse takes steps to conceal certain valuable assets, as well as to not disclose them to his or her partner. Undisclosed and hidden, the property settlement agreement as stipulated in their contract does not account for these assets – potentially giving the concealing partner more than a fair and equitable division of the couple’s shared property.

The Impact of Fault

Unless the terms of the prenuptial agreement have stipulations for faults that cause the breakdown of a marriage, fault typically does not weigh on the dissolution of such contracts. For instance, infidelity, abuse, dishonesty, or other factors may cause a spouse to file for divorce. However, they do not always give the spouse cause to challenge his or her prenup. Sometimes, though, such contracts will include clauses that award greater alimony amounts or a larger share of the shared assets for things such as cheating by one spouse, or the husband or wife moved out before the divorce.

While meant to protect both spouses in the event of a divorce, the terms of prenuptial agreements do not always suit couples’ circumstances once married. Although generally enforceable, people considering divorce may seek counsel to understand their rights and options for challenging such contracts.

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