Prenuptial agreements are growing more and more common with the increasing rate of divorce in the country. Though their newfound positive connotations of planning for a financially secure future hold firm, there are times where a prenuptial agreement takes a turn for the worst. Don’t worry: help is out there, and you have options!
1. You Were Coerced into Signing It
Figuring out your place in a prenup is hard. If you are in an abusive or tight situation where someone’s trying to force you into an agreement, you may have a case that will nullify it.
Coercion may conjure images of physical threats and dangerous situations, but this may take any form. For example, if you are nearing the wedding and haven’t committed to the prenup, you may face the threat of time closing in on you. Not having adequate time to consider and negotiate a prenup may qualify in court as a reason to get out of one.
On a separate note, an imbalance of financial power between parties may lead to a coerced signing. Threats of disinheritance, for example, are coercive acts. Marrying into a richer family may spur talks of signing a prenup to prevent divorce in the future. Sometimes there will be clauses that take away family support in the event of a divorce; these are normal, but things may turn coercive if the hesitant party is threatened with disenfranchisement come-signing time.
In any case, you need to stay vigilant and sign when you feel confident signing. If you have an attorney with you, tell them everything that happens outside of meetings if you think it could be coerced.
2. The Other Party Hid Assets
Not too in-the-know when it comes to divorce? Most of it relies on property. Both the property’s division and how it affects alimony and/or child support determinations is a key component of divorce, but it also may end up being a part of your prenup.
Of course, you cannot put everything you own into a prenup, but property such as inheritance, monetary awards, business ownership, and retirement benefits are fair game. Along with personal finances, anything related to that property as it affects a potential divorce may also be included, such as alimony, mediation service use, and any debt separating. This is to ensure ahead of any divorce that any financial issues will go over smoothly should the marriage dissolve.
If the other party in your prenup does not disclose relevant assets, you will be at a severe disadvantage come any divorce. Since an alimony award is based on financial need, if your spouse withholds information about their property, you will be seeing less than what you are owed. You can fight to break a prenup if you sign one under these pretenses. During a divorce, there is a process known as Discovery, where your lawyer will request information about your spouse’s assets. If you have the right legal help, your lawyer will help you access information relating to their assets.
3. The Agreement is Unconscionable
One of the most cited instances of a troubled prenup is that its specifics catch the attention of the courts upon application. Like coercion, even if you signed a prenup, it can still be thrown out if the conditions in which you signed it put you at a unfair disadvantage.
Unconscionable terms in a prenup are any part of the agreement that unfairly favors one party. This may include the absolution of one side in paying any alimony, the unequitable distribution of assets, and anything else a judge deems may leave the dependent spouse at an undue disadvantage in the event of divorce.
Some prenup terms may seem equitable at first, but over time grow to favor one side over the other. For example, let’s say a married couple agrees that their own properties if divorce comes, will remain theirs and untouched by factors such as alimony or child support. This may sound equitable, but if one spouse has a business as a part of their assets, there’s a chance it could grow and create new property. On the other hand, their partner’s assets may have seen stagnation or only marginal growth. If that couple ends up filing for a divorce, the latter spouse will be at a severe disadvantage if they cannot collect alimony based on their ex-spouse’s assets.
Again, like past examples, you should not look to extreme cases to dispel any concerns over your agreement. It is much better to be hyper-vigilant and on top of your treatment during a prenup negotiation. If you cannot properly represent yourself, you may find more problems down the road than you’d hoped.
4. You Did Not Have a Lawyer
Finally, if you sign a prenup without legal representation and counsel, you may be able to pursue invalidation. All the above scenarios have the chance to slip from your attention if you don’t have a lawyer on your side.
Lawyers have the experience necessary to pinpoint mistreatment, unfairness, and coercive behavior during negotiations. Though you want to trust your soon-to-be family, having a lawyer should never be a sign of mistrust. It instead shows you care about the legitimacy and transparency of the process and hope, if anything, that you’ll have a more viable financial future ahead.
Before you ask, do not be coaxed into using the other party’s lawyer for representation. You may think they will hear your needs and interests (which they may), but their priority is the client who hired them. It’s worth getting your own legal help to talk out your interests ahead of any discussions so your lawyer can push for their inclusion in the prenup.
If you are in need of a prenup or family attorney, contact our offices for a free initial consultation. Our lawyers will be there for you if you are lacking representation. We understand the importance of an equitable prenup and want you to have nothing less than the best contingency plan for your future. Feeling backed into a corner? Give us a call today!