Marriage is a big undertaking. In the short term, it requires a lot of time to plan a wedding, as well as a lot of money. In the long term, it is a commitment to another person, but also a legal commitment. It changes the legal status of those getting married and provides new benefits, such as the ability to open joint bank accounts and file taxes jointly. However, marriage does not always work out, and some people choose to protect their assets through a prenuptial agreement.
What is a Prenuptial Agreement?
A prenuptial agreement is a legally binding document that outlines the division of a couple’s respective assets if the marriage does not work out. These agreements can cover a wealth of different topics, but most people who opt for one do so for a few specific reasons:
- Leaving specific property or amounts of money to children shared with someone other than their new spouse: A prenuptial agreement can ensure that both children from previous marriages and your family with your new spouse are supported through your assets in the event of your death.
- Outline financial rights and responsibilities: Prenuptial agreements can also be used to clarify what each spouse’s financial responsibilities and rights will be in marriage.
- Simplify potential divorce proceedings: By specifying how property will be divided and whether either spouse will be awarded alimony in advance, a potential divorce in the future will be much easier to settle.
- Protect each other from debt: When creating a prenuptial agreement, a couple can outline who will be responsible for which debts upon the dissolution of the marriage. This can protect them from becoming responsible for their partner’s potentially poor financial decision making.
Prenuptial agreements are quite broad in terms of what they can cover and protect, however, there are some things that cannot be legislated in this manner. For example, you cannot include custody of your children, parenting time, or child support in your prenuptial agreement. These issues must be settled in court. You also cannot include provisions in your agreement to establish daily tasks or chores for your spouse, as courts cannot enforce them.
How Your Prenuptial Agreement Could Be Invalidated
Prenuptial agreements are designed to protect all the people involved, and they are binding legal documents. Just like certain other legal documents, there can be reason to void them if necessary. It is relatively rare for an agreement of this nature to be voided, but here are some things that could cause that to happen:
- Fraudulent agreement: When a prenuptial agreement is being drafted, both parties must make an honest and complete disclosure of their assets. If it is proven later that one or both parties undervalued their assets at the time the agreement was signed, it is possible to have the agreement voided entirely.
- Improper filing: Unfortunately, a prenuptial agreement can be nullified for something as simple as a careless error, like forgetting a signature.
- Language: It’s helpful to have your agreement written out by your lawyer, because it can be invalidated if the language does not clearly state the things you agreed upon.
- Coercion: If the prenuptial agreement was signed while either partner was under great duress, or if it is determined that the document was signed while either partner lacked the mental capacity to consent to the agreements laid out in the document, it can be invalidated.
- Lack of legal representation: If the document was signed while legal representation for either party was absent, there is a chance the document could be invalidated in the event of a divorce. Both parties should have their own independent legal counsel present at signing.
- Unconscionable agreement: If your prenuptial agreement awards too much to one party or does not appear to be working in the best interest of both parties (for example, a statement that no child support will be paid if divorce takes place or a statement about how often sexual relations take place), there is a good chance it will not be taken seriously and will be invalidated.
Although this information may make prenuptial agreements sound like lifelong commitments, they can be revised. If both parties agree regarding the proposed changes and the changes are made in writing following the same guidelines as when the agreement was first made, your prenuptial agreement can be changed. This process becomes even more simple if the original agreement contains terms for what to do if amendments are needed.
Contact an Attorney Today
If you find yourself in the position of needing a prenuptial agreement, or if you want to inquire whether your current agreement may be invalid, contact the Law Office of Russel S. Hershkowitz, LLC. With over two dozen years of experience representing clients in family law and bankruptcy cases, we will work tirelessly to represent you in an empathetic and effective manner. Contact us today at (407) 753-4111 or by using our contact page.