A prenuptial agreement is a contract created by two people before marriage in order to protect their respective assets in the event of a divorce. Prenuptials can be legally binding in a family law court; however, they must meet certain requirements, otherwise a judge may declare them invalid. Here, the family law attorneys at Rodier Family Law discuss the legality of prenuptial agreements.
Who Can Benefit from a Prenuptial Agreement?
Although prenuptial agreements are commonly thought of as contracts made by wealthy couples, this is not always the case, and a prenuptial agreement can be valuable for any couple who choose to marry. Besides protecting financial and other assets, a prenuptial agreement can allow a spouse to pass property onto children they had outside of the marriage, clarify each spouse’s financial rights, avoid arguments in the event of a divorce and provide protection against a spouse’s debts being incurred by the other spouse.
What Happens if You Do Not Have a Prenuptial Agreement?
If a couple does not have a prenuptial agreement, and chooses to divorce, the state will determine how marital and personal assets should be distributed to each spouse. Maryland is an “equitable distribution” state, meaning that marital property will be divided by the court in a fair, but not necessarily equal, manner. Property acquired before the marriage is considered separate property, however, property acquired by one spouse during the marriage may be considered marital property, even if both spouses did not contribute to purchasing it.
Can a Prenuptial Be Invalidated by the Court?
While most prenuptial agreements are considered legally binding contracts by family courts, some may not meet the requirements necessary to be legally binding. Here are some examples of why a prenuptial may not be legally enforceable:
- The Agreement is Fraudulent
The validity of a prenuptial agreement is based on a transparent account of each spouse’s assets, but sometimes, one or both spouses do not fully disclose their assets. If it can be proven that a spouse was not fully transparent regarding their financial situation, any prenuptial created under the false claims could be considered invalid by the court.
- The Agreement was Coerced or Signed Without Mental Capacity
For a prenuptial agreement to be considered legally valid, it must be signed by both parties voluntarily , and both parties must be of a mental ability to understand the consequences of what they are signing. If it can be proven that one spouse was forced by the other to sign a prenuptial agreement, or if one spouse was not of sound mind at the time, the agreement may be rejected by the court.
- The Agreement is Unfair
Even if both parties willingly consent to a prenuptial, the court may reject it if they feel that it is too unfair to one spouse. This may include a prenuptial that bars child support from being provided, or a prenuptial that has excessive provisions, such as agreements to maintain certain physical features like weight or hair color.
The Agreement was Signed Without Legal Representation
Before signing a prenuptial agreement, both parties should consult legal counsel to ensure the agreement is valid, appropriate and legally enforceable. If you have questions or concerns about a prenuptial agreement, or are considering divorce and are uncertain about the legality of any legal documents, contact the family law attorneys at Rodier Family Law today for the consultation you deserve.