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When might your prenuptial agreement be invalid?

You fell in love with someone, and there was a serious discrepancy in income or assets. When you decided to marry, you both agreed to execute a prenuptial agreement. These documents typically provide specific terms for asset division during a divorce. Some may go so far as to address child custody as well, if the couple intends to start a family.

Now that you believe your marriage is headed for divorce, you're wondering if your prenuptial agreement is valid. Whether or not the courts choose to uphold the terms of your prenuptial agreement will have a profound impact on the outcome of your divorce and the asset division process. There are a number of circumstances that could result in an invalidated prenuptial agreement.

Withheld assets or fraud at the time of the agreement

If either or both parties withheld information about assets or income when the prenuptial agreement got drafted, that could be sufficient grounds for invalidation. Just like during a divorce, a prenuptial agreement requires an accurate and through inventory of both income and assets.

If one person intentionally left assets or income out of the inventory, that creates a situation where the prenuptial agreement got signed under fraudulent conditions. Courts will very often ignore or throw out a prenuptial agreement with fraudulent elements.

One party was coerced, incapacitated or under duress

Depending on the circumstances, refusing to marry your fiance without a prenuptial agreement in place could be coercion. This is particularly true in cases where someone is pregnant.

Similarly, if one of the signing parties was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, ill or simply in a mental state where he or she could not comprehend the document, the courts may invalidate the prenuptial agreement. Similarly, if one of the signing parties did not receive private legal counsel before signing, that could be grounds for invalidation.

The terms of the prenuptial agreement are inappropriate

Sometimes, the various requirements and terms included in a prenuptial agreement are ridiculous or even illegal. If one spouse creates a document that is incredibly unfair to the other, the courts could reject to uphold it.

A prenuptial agreement cannot remove your spouse's legal obligation to any children from your marriage, for example. A prenuptial agreement that includes a "no child support" clause will very likely get thrown out by the courts.

Errors in filing or other legal requirements

In order for a prenuptial agreement to be legal, it must be properly executed, witnessed, signed and filed. Little mistakes can lead to the entire document ending up becoming worthless. Issues with language, failure to properly file the prenuptial agreement, and errors with signatures and other details can render a prenuptial agreement useless.

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