When Can I Contest a Prenuptial Agreement?
Prenuptial or premarital agreements have risen in popularity significantly over the past several decades. No longer the exclusive purview of the rich and famous, prenups can provide security for marrying couples who come from any economic level. We strongly encourage every couple to at least consider entering a prenup before marriage. That being said, some prenups are blatantly unfair to one spouse and should not be enforced. In this article, we discuss how a party can contest a prenuptial agreement that leaves them high and dry in a divorce. If you are concerned about a prenuptial agreement or you are facing divorce, reach out to a savvy and trial-ready New Jersey premarital agreement attorney.
Grounds for Contesting a Prenup
The principal grounds for contesting a prenuptial agreement rely on invalidating either the agreement itself or specific terms within the agreement. A prenup may be thrown out in whole or in part because of the following reasons, among others:
- The agreement was not voluntary. A prenuptial agreement, like any other contract, is not valid if it is not entered into voluntarily. An agreement may be involuntary if one party was forced into it through duress, threats, or fraud. A valid prenup requires complete financial disclosures and may be deceptive if one spouse lies about their assets. Duress may be shown, for example, if the agreement is entered into too close to the wedding. An agreement is also not voluntary if a party lacked the capacity to sign the contract at the time they entered the agreement–for example, if they were intoxicated, unconscious, had a mental deficiency due to illness or injury, or if they were not a legal adult.
- The agreement calls for illegal conduct. No contract is enforceable if it calls for illegal conduct such as criminal activity.
- The agreement is procedurally invalid. Prenups must follow certain legal requirements to be valid, including that they are in writing, witnessed, notarized, and executed before the wedding. If a prenup was executed without one of these important procedural steps, the whole contract may be invalidated.
- The agreement was signed without lawyers. Both parties must have the option to review the contract with the help of separate legal counsel. The parties cannot share the same lawyer (due to conflicts of interest), and if one party wishes to waive their right to counsel, they must do so in writing.
- The prenup includes unenforceable provisions. There are certain types of prenup provisions that New Jersey family law refuses to enforce. A prenup cannot preemptively establish custody distribution, for example. A prenup cannot limit child support, because the right to child support belongs to the child, not to the parent. These issues must be decided upon by the parties and the court at the time of divorce. A prenup can limit the amount of alimony, but not so much as to leave one party destitute. The court will also refuse to enforce provisions tied to the parties’ personal lives such as sexual requirements, conditions involving the parties’ appearance, or other private behavior.
- Unconscionable provisions. Finally, a prenup, or certain provisions within the prenup, may be invalidated if the terms are so entirely unfair as to be unconscionable under the principles of public policy. If a court finds that following the terms of the prenup would leave one party in serious financial hardship, the court has the discretion to invalidate those terms.
Get Help Challenging a Premarital Agreement in New Jersey
If you need seasoned legal help with prenuptial agreements, divorce, child support, alimony, or other family law matters in New Jersey, contact the Union offices of family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro at 908-964-0102.