When Are Prenuptials Void?
A prenuptial agreement can drastically simplify your divorce proceedings, allowing you and your ex to separate amicably and move on with your lives. However, it is always important to remember that a prenup is a legal agreement, and there are certain standards it must fulfill to be valid. Trusting that a prenuptial agreement will fully protect you in a divorce can be a huge mistake, as these agreements can be made null and void in certain situations.
What Are the Rules of a Prenuptial Agreement?
When signing a prenuptial agreement, you and your spouse are essentially agreeing to a business contract. These contracts outline how communal property should be divided in a divorce so that you do not have to go through the stressful and complex process of dividing all of the property you accumulated in marriage, including houses, furniture, vehicles, and even debts. If your relationship ends, the terms of the contract will go into effect and allow you to skip past many of the more contentious parts of a divorce.
But that is only true if your prenuptial agreement is valid. While California courts do traditionally respect prenuptial agreements, a judge can ignore them if the agreement is considered unfair or if you did not follow certain regulations.
For one, each party in a marriage must have adequate time to review and sign the agreement before getting married, and there must be a grace period between the date the prenuptial was signed and when the marriage ceremony takes place. In California, this is exactly one week. If you signed a prenuptial just a day before getting married, then a court can consider it invalid.
In addition to the time restraints, both parties in a prenuptial must have had the opportunity to receive fair and honest representation from a lawyer before signing the agreement. While these agreements can be reviewed by one lawyer, California law prefers that each spouse has the chance to talk to a separate lawyer about the agreement. If you were denied the chance to speak to a lawyer or were pressured into signing the document without representation, then you can challenge it in court. These agreements must also be witnessed and notarized by an attorney for them to be valid.
A prenuptial agreement is meant to cover all financial aspects of your marriage, including alimony and property division, but it does have its limits. These agreements cannot have any terms related to child support or custody, as these issues must be reviewed by the court so that the best interests of your children are upheld. In addition, these agreements cannot include “Lifestyle Clauses,” such as rules regarding household chores, relationships with other parties (family members, friends, exes, etc.), job prospects, or religious conduct. Judges will typically ignore these parts of an agreement if they are included.
Unreasonable Property Division
In addition to “no unfair clauses,” a prenuptial agreement cannot be considered cruel or unreasonable according to the court. For example, if your spouse attempted to claim all of your communal property according to a prenuptial, you could challenge it in court. If a judge agrees that the agreement unfairly favors your spouse or that you may be left financially insecure by a divorce, he or she can overturn the agreement and require equitable distribution under the law.
Duress or Manipulation
All contracts must be signed willingly and consciously by both parties for them to be valid. Signing a prenuptial agreement while being intoxicated, under fear of harm, or under false pretenses can make the agreement invalid in a California court.
When drafting a prenuptial agreement, you and your spouse will outline all your finances, including potential real estate, vehicles, and furniture, in order to determine what will be considered communal property and what will be considered separate upon divorce. If one partner hides certain assets, such as high-value jewelry or debt, then a judge could consider the agreement void because that partner was dishonest.
All prenuptial agreements should be carefully reviewed by an experienced attorney to determine if they are valid before you sign one. However, even if you did sign an unfair agreement, the San Diego divorce lawyers at Huguenor Mattis, A.P.C., can represent you in family court to have the agreement declared invalid. Since 1975, we have handled complex divorces for California residents and can provide thorough insight into your situation. To schedule a free consultation, call our office at (858) 458-9500 today.