Many couples decide to execute pre-nuptial agreement to forestall any severe disputes if they should decide to end their marriage. Unfortunately, a person looking forward to a long and happy marriage may discover that a seemingly ideal spouse has one or more serious character flaws that imperil the marriage.
At this point, the recollection of the prenuptial agreement may rear its ugly head, reminding both spouses that it will control the distribution of property and the payment of alimony after the divorce becomes final. What can be done? Prenuptial agreements are generally hard to break, but most states, including Indiana, have clear-cut grounds for achieving just such a result.
The agreement was based on fraud
This reason is probably the most common finding that can lead to a prenuptial agreement being declared invalid. Proving this argument requires evidence that the accused spouse concealed material facts in order to persuade the other spouse to sign the agreement. The fraud must be “material”—that is, the fraudulent statement must concern a fact upon which the other spouse relied in deciding either to enter the marriage or to execute the prenuptial agreement. Such a misrepresentation may involve the financial situation of one or both parties, hidden assets or concealed liabilities.
The agreement was coerced or signed without mental capacity
Many spouses are coerced into signing a prenuptial agreement by various kind of threats from the potential mate. Such threats may be physical (although most are not), financial or a possible cancellation of the marriage. Some spouses, mostly women, are persuaded to sign the agreement because they do not fully understand it. A person who was persuaded to sign a prenuptial agreement when they were under the influence of drugs may also succeed in having the agreement invalidated based on lack of mental capacity.
Absence of proper legal representation
Many women who marry very wealthy men are somewhat intimidated by their wealth, and these men may attempt to persuade their future brides that they do not need a lawyer to advise them before they sign a prenuptial agreement. Indiana, like most states, makes adequate legal representation for both parties, which is one of the significant requirements for a valid agreement. If the party against whom the agreement is being enforced did not have counsel or was not given time for a competent attorney to review the agreement, it will most likely be declared to be invalid.
Failure to sign the agreement
An enforceable prenuptial agreement must be in writing and signed by both parties. The failure of either requirement will cause a judge to declare the agreement unenforceable. Because most prenuptial agreements are drafted by experienced divorce lawyers, this ground rarely prevails as an argument to invalidate the agreement.
The agreement is unfair
Sometimes a potential spouse who wants a prenuptial agreement overreaches and ask for terms that are plainly unfair or oppressive. In such cases, a judge has the legal power to declare the entire agreement invalid.
Sound legal representation
Anyone who may have signed a prenuptial agreement that has proven to be oppressive or unfair may wish to consult an experienced divorce lawyer for an evaluation of the facts and an opinion on the likelihood of having the agreement declared invalid.