Escaping an onerous prenuptial agreement in California

Many California couples sign prenuptial agreements before they wed. Many of these agreements serve their intended purpose by reducing the amount of uncertainty and acrimony if the couple should decide to end their marriage. In some cases, however, a prenuptial agreement can feel like an unbearable load to one of the divorcing spouses. Such feelings may trigger a strong need to invalidate the agreement and revise or eliminate certain terms.

Formal defects in the agreement

One of the most powerful attacks on a prenuptial agreement is the assertion that the formal requirements imposed by statute have not been satisfied. A valid prenuptial agreement must be in writing and must be signed by both parties before the wedding is formalized. Both parties must have seven days to review the agreement or before signing to submit it to an attorney for review, and both parties must understand and accept the terms of the agreement. The failure of any one of these requirements will render the agreement invalid.

Substantive defects in the agreement

Fraud is a common ground for attacking a prenuptial agreement. In situations where one party possesses substantially more assets than the other party, the failure of the wealthier spouse to fully disclose the amount and nature of these assets can become the basis for invalidating the agreement. The fraud need not concern the entire marital estate. A misstatement of fact about the nature of one asset or the failure to disclose an especially valuable asset may also be fraudulent.

Amending a prenuptial agreement

The parties may decide to amend a prenuptial agreement after the marriage, and in such cases, the same formalities (except the signing before the marriage) apply. The failure to make a full financial disclosure can be grounds for invalidating an amended prenuptial agreement.

Anyone with questions about the validity of a prenuptial agreement may wish to consult an experienced divorce attorney. A knowledgeable lawyer can offer an evaluation of the fairness of the agreement and the likelihood that a court will declare it invalid. Also, the remedy for an invalid prenuptial agreement may vary substantially from case to case, and a capable divorce attorney can help craft a useful remedy.