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When can someone challenge a prenuptial agreement?

On Behalf of | Feb 19, 2024 | Family Law

The intention of a prenuptial agreement is to simplify and expedite divorce proceedings by laying out fair conditions that both spouses agree to. However, like other contracts, one of the parties to a prenup may later discover that the terms are neither fair nor legal.

Though the court will generally enforce a prenup, it will invalidate the document if one party can prove any of the following circumstances.

Both parties need sufficient time

In California, the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act governs rules of enforceability for prenups. This statute includes a seven-day waiting period. Therefore, the document is not valid unless there is at least a week between the signing of the prenup and the marriage ceremony.

This gives both individuals reasonable time to review and negotiate the terms. If the couple did not meet this timeframe, the court may throw it out during divorce proceedings.

Both mates must have had their full mental faculties

A court might invalidate a prenup if one party can prove that he or she lacked mental capacity when signing. Mental capacity means being able to understand the agreement’s terms and implications.

Various factors can compromise one’s mental capacity, including cognitive impairment, mental illness or being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If evidence shows that one party was unable to understand the nature and consequences of the prenup due to mental incapacity, the court may set it aside to protect the individual’s rights.

The terms cannot be unconscionable

Unconscionability refers to terms that are so unfair or one-sided that they shock the conscience. If a court finds that a prenup includes provisions that greatly favor one party over the other in an oppressive or unjust manner, it may declare the agreement invalid. Such a circumstance might happen if, for example, one party significantly benefits from the agreement while the other receives little or nothing in return.

Couples should take great care when drafting a prenup to ensure that the agreement is fair and enforceable. However, if a person finds themselves facing divorce with an unfavorable prenup, they should verify whether the contract will hold up under scrutiny.