Prenuptial contracts are one of the most commonly misunderstood elements of marriage law in the United States. These agreements can allow a couple to have difficult but honest conversations about their goals and expectations, starting their marriage on a stronger footing with peace of mind for the future. It’s essential for anyone marrying in the near future to understand how prenuptial contracts work and how they can come into play during divorce proceedings.
A prenuptial contract can essentially lay the groundwork for divorce proceedings and allow the whole process to unfold more swiftly, but only if the prenuptial contract was developed correctly. Many prenuptial contracts are unenforceable or become unenforceable under certain conditions. Determine the enforceability of a prenuptial contract as it pertains to a Kansas City, MO divorce case with help from our attorneys.
What Is a Prenuptial Agreement and How Does It Work?
In the simplest terms, a prenuptial agreement is a marital contract between two people who intend to become married spouses. This contract outlines the couple’s rights and responsibilities in the marriage and may include specific rules for certain situations. One of the most important elements of a prenuptial agreement is the postnuptial agreement clauses contained within. This portion of the contract takes effect if the couple decides to divorce.
Prenuptial contracts have a bad reputation because of the inferred implication that a prenuptial contract is only necessary if a marriage is doomed to fail. While it is true that a prenuptial contract functions as a form of contingency protection in the event a marriage breaks down, the reality is that both marrying spouses benefit from having the contract in place as firmly as possible.
A professionally drafted prenuptial agreement can outline the marrying spouse’s property rights, expectations, goals, and responsibilities for the marriage. It can also outline what will happen if the couple decides to divorce, such as who will retain ownership over which assets. It’s vital to have legal counsel to assist in drafting the prenuptial agreement to ensure it is enforceable as written and flexible enough to account for potential future modifications.
How Can a Prenuptial Contract Be Unenforceable?
Every state has unique laws in place regarding prenuptial contracts, what they may contain, and the conditions under which they may be developed. A prenuptial contract is unenforceable if it contains any illegal stipulations or any other elements that violate applicable state laws. A prenuptial contract is also unenforceable if it is signed under duress or a signing party is unaware of key details or such details were purposefully hidden from them at the time of signing. The signing parties must also be coherent, of sound mind and body, and of legal age to sign the prenuptial contract for it to be enforceable.
It is not uncommon for married partners to believe their prenuptial contract to be enforceable only to discover when they need it that it is no longer so. It is also possible for a married couple’s circumstances to change in such a way that an existing prenuptial agreement is no longer reasonable or logical.
Can a Prenuptial Contract Be Amended?
While it is not possible to amend a prenuptial contract once signed, it is possible to create a new postnuptial contract should a couple’s circumstances change enough to render parts of their existing contract unenforceable. It is also possible to entirely renegotiate an existing prenuptial contract, effectively creating a whole new contract.
What Can’t Be Included in a Prenuptial Contract?
Couples that develop prenuptial contracts typically turn to these documents when they decide to divorce. However, they cannot rely solely on prenuptial agreements to handle the ending of their marriages. A prenuptial contract may not include any stipulations regarding child custody or child support. While a divorcing couple may negotiate a parenting plan and present it to a family court judge for review and approval, they may not plan out their child custody or child support terms in advance.
Prenuptial agreements also may not contain any non-financial requirements. For example, a marrying spouse cannot demand a certain level of sexual activity frequency in the contract, nor can a marrying spouse compel the other to attend religious services or maintain a specific physical appearance.
What Happens When a Prenuptial Contract Is Unenforceable?
If a prenuptial contract is rendered unenforceable in any way, then the couple cannot rely on any part of it to take effect in the event of their divorce. Ultimately, it is best to review existing prenuptial contracts after major life events and renegotiate them as necessary. When a prenuptial contract is unenforceable, the couple must then refer to state statutes to navigate their divorce proceedings. Essentially, if the couple decides to divorce and discovers their prenuptial contract no longer carries legal weight, there is no legal bind to it. They will proceed with divorce litigation or alternative dispute resolution as if the agreement never existed.
It is also possible for a prenuptial agreement to be rendered unenforceable by the intentional actions of one of the signing parties. In this situation, the party responsible would have essentially committed a breach of contract. It may be liable for civil penalties depending on the nature of their breach and the consequences of their actions.
Will My Prenuptial Agreement Hold Up in Court?
If you want to be able to rely on a prenuptial agreement in the event your marriage breaks down, ensure it is created appropriately and reviewed on a regular basis. The best way to accomplish this is by working with an experienced Kansas City, MO divorce attorney. An experienced legal team can help their clients draft a comprehensive prenuptial agreement personalized to their unique needs and situation. An attorney can also help if a couple requires a prenuptial contract renegotiation or when one spouse contests a prenuptial contract’s enforceability.
To verify that your prenuptial contract is as enforceable as possible, seek legal counsel from a reliable Kansas City, MO family law attorney. An experienced attorney can either assist in drafting a new prenuptial agreement or help you determine whether an existing agreement is enforceable.