Albany Family Law Blog

When does a prenuptial agreement become invalid?

Posted by Joanne P. Monagan, Esq. | May 26, 2023 | 0 Comments

Signing a prenup has become standard practice for most modern couples before they tie the knot. Historically, prenuptial agreements in New York were nearly impossible to invalidate, but times have changed. The circumstances surrounding a prenup's creation or execution may now affect its validity in divorce proceedings.

There are five valid grounds a spouse may use to challenge their prenuptial agreement in court:

  1. Fraud

There are many ways spouses can commit fraud. One is by hiding or undervaluing assets. Because both parties are legally required to disclose all of their financial assets, debts and income streams, concealing assets would count as fraud.

The court may also consider coercing a spouse into signing a prenuptial agreement while making false promises as fraud. Collecting evidence is crucial in proving fraud.

  1. Duress

Any action taken under fear or pressure may be considered duress. Blackmailing one party into signing or presenting the prenuptial agreement only days before the wedding are both grounds for voiding the agreement. Proving duress is difficult and may require testimony from witnesses.

Additionally, the prenuptial agreement must be specific and unambiguous. A court could rule that the prenup is unlawful if one of the spouses signed it without fully understanding its implications.

  1. Filing error

Prenuptial agreements in New York must be put in writing and signed in the presence of a notary public. If a prenuptial agreement is filed with clear errors, the court may throw it out.

  1. Unconscionable

The provisions of the prenuptial agreement should make sense for both parties. The court may find it unconscionable if it is too one-sided, unethical or punitive. For example, if one spouse is required to sign away all parental rights, the entire agreement may be declared unenforceable.

  1. Were you or your spouse represented by an attorney?

Before signing, each party should have had enough time to review the prenuptial agreement. Understandably, people may need the help of a lawyer to figure out what all the legal jargon in the contract means. If one of the parties did not have access to a lawyer before signing the contract, it is possible that the contract is not binding.

It is crucial to establish the validity of a prenuptial agreement before proceeding with a divorce. Otherwise, one spouse might unintentionally consent to give up something that is rightfully theirs.

About the Author

Joanne P. Monagan, Esq.

Managing Attorney


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