One of the things that many divorce lawyers will tell you is the importance of having a prenuptial agreement in place and signed by both partners. We’d love to believe that a marriage, once begun, really will last “till death do us part,” but statistically, it’s already a well-known fact that not every marriage comes to an end this way, and a significant number are resolved through a divorce.

When that divorce occurs, a pre-nuptial agreement can often mean the difference between a relatively straightforward, “bloodless” separation, and a bitter fight, tooth and nail, over significant pieces of property. However, even with a pre-nuptial agreement drafted, signed and entered into records as a legally binding document, there are still times when that agreement can be challenged and considered invalid. But when and why?

Improperly Signed

Having the signatures of both partners on a pre-nuptial agreement is a legally required, but another requirement is that those signatures are created before the wedding has taken place. If for whatever reason, one partner refuses to sign the agreement, and it is only after the marriage occurs that the signature is finally given, this may be grounds to contest the signature. The reason is obvious; both parties must agree to the division of assets before a marriage, and if there is disagreement, and a refusal to sign, obviously a big problem exists. To only be willing to sign the agreement after the marriage occurs is very unusual, and usually, indicates that there’s a contentious issue still at play.

Dishonest Disclosure

Another very important instance where a pre-nuptial agreement can be challenged is if one of the parties lied about actual worth or assets in possession. For example, if an extremely paranoid husband-to-be failed to mention the ownership of several houses, stocks, bonds, companies and actual cash in possession, and pretended to not be wealthy at all, a divorce lawyer could easily challenge this agreement.

It’s one thing if a spouse is well aware of the other person’s assets, has no interest in them, and agrees to let new partner hold on to all original assets. It’s another matter entirely when that new partner lies about all possessions right from the start in order to protect against a possible divorce it the future. This is not just unethical and highly insulting to the other partner, it is also illegal for the purposes of a legally binding financial contract.

The Agreement Wasn’t Read

As a variation of dishonest disclosure, another unethical-and illegal-practice is to have a pre-nuptial disagreement that is signed, but not read. The most common reason for this tactic is when one spouse is wealthy or comes from a wealthy family, and the family does not want the new, incoming in-law to be fully aware of the extent of the wealth. If one of the people signing a pre-nup has no awareness at all of what is in the actual agreement, this is also valid grounds for challenging the legality of the document.

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