Prenuptial agreements are legally binding documents signed by a couple before their marriage that details their separate property (including investment and other financial accounts), and outlines how potential joint assets will be divided in the event of a divorce, as well as addressing the issue of alimony. The popularity of prenuptial agreements is on the rise because they help to protect both parties' best interest if their marriage ends. They are usually enforceable in a court of law, but in some instances, prenups can be ruled to be invalid.
In order for a prenuptial agreement to be considered valid, both parties must sign under their own free will, and not be coerced or threatened into doing so in any way, shape, or form. Both parties must have separate legal counsel review the agreement to ensure that it is fair, as well as witness them sign it. Additionally, for a prenup to be enforceable, it cannot appear that the document was drafted and signed in haste. Signing a prenuptial agreement a few days before a wedding can potentially show that one party signed under duress and pressure from their spouse. An unfair prenup will most likely be considered void, especially if it states that one party will receive sole ownership and occupancy of marital property, or a large percentage of joint accounts. Finally, all finances must be disclosed in the agreement. This includes current funds in financial accounts, debts, and the value of property. A judge will not hesitate to deem a prenuptial agreement to be invalid or show signs of fraud if any of the above factors are met.
But what happens in a divorce if your agreement is found to be invalid? Well, that depends. In some instances, parties will be able to come to an agreement regarding equitable distribution of marital assets and debts, as well as spousal support, child support, and custody. In situations where one spouse was dishonest regarding the amount of money they had in various assets, or their total sum of debt, a judge may find that they were hiding assets. Hidden assets are a major concern in high net worth divorce cases, especially contested ones. When a party lies about what assets they have, then are misleading the court in regards to their net worth. By convincing the court that they have less money to their name, the dishonest spouse may end up paying less money in alimony and child support.
Given the complex nature of invalid prenuptial agreements, it is highly encouraged that both parties to the divorce action retain experienced counsel to represent them throughout the proceeding. There will be mandatory court appearances, various motions, orders, and stipulations, as well as an extensive discovery process, all of which will be impossible for someone who is not proficient in matrimonial law to handle on their own. Each attorney will present both oral and written arguments to the court, and try to persuade the judge that the prenuptial agreement is valid or invalid (depending on their client's stance on the matter). Once the validity of the prenup is decided, court and trial appearances regarding custody, support and equitable distribution will be held. This is, of course, if parties are unable to reach an agreement concerning these issues before appearing in front of a judge.
To avoid the disastrous pitfalls of contested divorces and the burden of invalid prenuptial agreements, contact Brian D. Perskin & Associates, P.C. to speak with a knowledgeable matrimonial and family law attorney. Brian and his team of dedicated attorneys provide thorough representation, advocating on their client's behalf throughout the divorce or child custody process. In addition to matrimonial actions, the firm regularly drafts customized prenuptial and postnuptial agreements for clients, helping to ensure that their future is secure. For more information, call (646) 760-1719 or (718) 875-7584 to schedule your free consultation today!