Most divorce attorneys in Sacramento and elsewhere in California strongly support the use of prenuptial agreements to settle issues of property division, child custody and other issues that often lend unnecessary acrimony in a divorce. Despite this advice, more than a few people facing a divorce in California realize that they have signed a prenuptial agreement that is grossly unfair, fraudulent or otherwise counter to their best interests. Can anything be done about such an agreement? Will the courts provide relief if the agreement was obtained by fraud or undue duress? The answer can by “yes,” but any challenge must be limited to a violation of the rules that make such agreements enforceable in the first place.
A prenuptial agreement must be written and signed by both parties before the wedding. Any deviation from this rule will invalidate the agreement. A prenuptial agreement that is signed after the wedding is ipso facto void. Despite the clarity of these rules, some prenuptial agreements are invalid, even if they were executed before the couple wed.
In the rush of detail and emotion that predates most weddings, one party may feel pressured to sign the agreement even if no time was afforded to read the agreement or review it with an attorney. If these facts can be proved the agreement will be held to be invalid. Similarly, if one spouse provides false or incomplete information about material financial matters, the agreement cannot be enforced against the other spouse.
Many people view prenuptial agreements as casting an emotional pall over the warm and intimate feelings that infuse most weddings, but these feelings should not prevent a common-sense approach to reviewing and evaluating a prenuptial agreement. If a person has serious questions about the wisdom of signing a prenuptial agreement, he or she may wish to consult an experienced divorce attorney for advice.