Decades ago, prenuptial agreements were relatively uncommon, utilized by those of prominent social standing or great wealth to protect assets and reputation. These days, with divorce rates at historically high levels, more couples than ever before choose to execute a prenuptial agreement before marriage. The idea is to plan for a clean exit, should something go wrong with the marriage.
In reality, situations often change between when a couple marries and when they divorce. It’s also important to note that it is very common for an uneven power dynamic in a relationship to have impacted the creation of a prenuptial agreement. If you signed a document years ago that leaves you without the means to support yourself after a divorce, you’re probably wondering if you can invalidate the document.
Texas law allows for two major contests to these contracts
At its most basic, a prenuptial agreement is effectively a contract of what each party expects from the other during the course of the marriage and in the event of a divorce. Some prenuptial agreements include penalty clauses related to problematic behaviors, including drinking, drug use, spousal abuse or infidelity. Others simply outline critical assets that will remain separate property after marriage and in the event of a divorce.
In Texas, prenuptial agreements are usually upheld by the courts without consideration. However, the law does provide for two situations in which a prenuptial agreement becomes invalid. The first is if it was not signed of one’s own free will, and the other is when the form includes unconscionable terms.
Factors that impact voluntary signing
Obviously, as with any contract, if a signor to a prenuptial agreement can prove that he or she was under the influence of mind-altering drugs or alcohol at the time of signing, that could invalidate the contract. Beyond that, you may have to prove that your spouse exerted undue influence and effectively forced you to sign.
One of the most common scenarios where voluntary signing is questionable is when a male partner forces a pregnant female partner to sign a prenuptial agreement in order to get married. Arguably, the expectant mother may not have other options, which gives the male partner far more power and control.
Understanding unconscionable content in a prenuptial agreement
A prenuptial agreement may get invalidated by the courts if they find that the contents are unconscionable. Generally, situations where a prenuptial was unconscionable include when both parties do not fully disclose their property and debts or wherein the conditions obviously favor one spouse at the expense of the other.
The courts will need to carefully review a prenuptial agreement to see if there are unconscionable terms and conditions within it. It’s important to note that although a spouse could waive the right to alimony or spousal support, no prenuptial agreement can undo a parent’s legal obligation to pay child support.