Is there any way you can invalidate a prenuptial agreement?

Love is an intense experience that can sometimes prompt people to make decisions that aren't in their own best interest. For example, if you were desperately in love with your fiance, you might have barely glanced at the prenuptial agreement they asked you to sign. After all, you plan to stay married for the rest of your life.

You may find that your situation has changed. Perhaps your spouse has cheated on you or maybe you have simply grown apart over the years. Now that you see the end of your marriage looming, you're likely to revisit the terms in the prenuptial agreement you signed so willingly at a younger age.

Many people are surprised when they realize they gave up important concessions when they signed a prenuptial agreement. That can lead them to asking whether there are situations where they can contest a prenuptial agreement under Florida family law. The good news is that the Florida courts can and do invalidate prenuptial agreements for a broad range of reasons.

Prenuptial agreements must meet strict standards to stand up in court

Prenuptial agreements are theoretically a legally binding agreement between people who intended to marry. Unfortunately, when people insist on including elements in their prenuptial agreement, that makes them less legally binding and enforceable in the event of a divorce. You could very well find that this is the case with your prenuptial agreement.

For example, does your prenuptial agreement specifically protect your spouse but offer no concessions or protections to you? The courts are unlikely to enforce a prenuptial agreement with unconscionable terms. Unconscionable means unethical, and an agreement that only protects one party is likely unethical.

You need legal representation, and it must be a legal contract

Whether or not you had your own independent legal representation could matter, too. After all, a good attorney would not advise you to sign a biased contract that leaves you vulnerable and protects your spouse. If you did not have your own attorney representing you for the contract, that may mean that you didn't receive adequate counsel and that the contract isn't binding.

It's also important to determine whether the contract includes illegal conditions or clauses. The courts may sometimes strike just the illegal sections, but often an illegal clause invalidates an entire agreement. There are many clauses that could make the entire prenuptial agreement invalid. A common one is a clause that states one spouse will not have to pay child support for any children from the marriage in the event of a divorce.

Did coercion or duress play a role in your signing?

Sometimes, the circumstances that lead to the signing of a prenuptial agreements are ethically reprehensible. One party might bully or force the other into signing the agreement. In some circumstances, one party to the contract could argue duress played a factor in their signing. Pregnancy or the imminent death of a family member who desperately wants to see the wedding could both be forms of duress that impact someone's decision-making.

Sitting down with an experienced family law attorney is the best approach for anyone in Florida who needs a divorce but has a questionable prenuptial agreement on record.

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Beverly L . Brennan A PARTNER AT MCLAUGHLIN & STERN, LLP - NAPLES, FLORIDA ATTORNEY & COUNSELOR AT LAW

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