August 14, 2012

Invalidating a Prenuptial Agreement

Article By: William Dorsey
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Many are familiar with the idea of prenuptial agreements.  They are essentially contracts between spouses that lays out terms in case the marriage does not go as planned.  However, there are various circumstances under which these agreements may not be enforceable.  When going through a divorce with a “prenup” it is crucial to be aware of these issues.Getting a prenuptial in Jacksonville, FL.

The Basics of a Prenuptial Agreement

In 2007, Florida enacted its version of the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act (UPAA). The law lays out the criteria under which a premarital agreement is not enforceable. The law declares that couples must enter premarital agreements voluntarily and the agreement must be free of fraud, duress, coercion, or overreaching. Examples of the sort of duress that render an agreement unenforceable include threatening a spouse facing potential immigration-status issues with deportation or unexpectedly thrusting a premarital agreement on the other spouse, with no advanced warning, within mere days prior to the couple’s wedding ceremony. Florida’s inclusion of fraud, duress, coercion or overreaching as bases for denying enforcement is a variation from the original UPAA, which contained no such provisions.

Voluntariness & Knowledge Keys to Validity

Also, courts may declare premarital agreements unenforceable under an “unconscionable” standard.  This essentially refers to cases where the terms are supremely unfair.  However, to do so the court must not only find the agreement unconscionable but also conclude that the spouse against whom enforcement is sought did not receive adequate information about the spouse’s assets. Florida law requires that the information required constitute only a “general and approximate” knowledge of the other spouse’s financial condition. Specifically, the statute’s disclosure requirement mandates that the spouse against whom enforcement is sought:

  • Be provided a fair and reasonable disclosure of the property or financial obligations of the other party
  • Voluntarily and expressly waive, in writing, any right to disclosure of the property or financial obligations of the other party beyond the disclosure provided; and
  • Have, or have a reasonable opportunity to have, an adequate knowledge of the property or financial obligations of the other party.

In a Prenuptial, Non-Disclosure Must be “Material”

In order for a failure to disclose to serve as the grounds for a successful challenge to the enforcement of a premarital agreement, the non-disclosed information must be material—meaning that it must be important and/or large enough to alter meaningfully the financial profile of the wealthier spouse. For example, if a spouse’s assets are worth $10 million dollars, her failure to disclose a savings account with a $2,500 balance would likely not be seen by a court as a material non-disclosure and would likely be insufficient, standing alone, to prevent enforcement on the basis of a failure to disclose.

The statute places the burden of proof on the spouse against whom enforcement is sought to prove that the agreement was involuntary, overreached, was the product of fraud, duress or coercion, or was unconscionable (and lacked the required disclosures regarding the other spouse’s financial circumstances).

Florida also crafted one additional circumstance under which a premarital agreement may not be enforced as written. If a premarital agreement calls for a reduction or total elimination of spousal support, and that term causes that spouse to qualify for government aid for the needy, then the law permits the court to order the other spouse to pay support to the impoverished spouse.

For help enforcing your prenuptial agreement, or determining if the prenuptial agreement you signed may actually be unenforceable under Florida law, contact an experienced Jacksonville divorce lawyer for a review and analysis of your case.


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