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Pressure, duress and prenups

Photo of Karen Lavin

So you are getting divorced, but you and your spouse signed a prenup years ago, when you got married. You think it will solve most of your legal issues right up front, and you're certainly glad you have it in place.

It may be very helpful, but it's important to consider the reasons why it could be invalid. Two of the big ones, which are often connected, revolve around timing and pressure.

Essentially, you and your spouse both had to sign the prenup of your own free will. Even if it was written properly, if your spouse can show that he or she signed it under pressure -- or under duress, as it's often called -- then the document may not hold up.

There are many ways for someone to be pressured into signing, but one of the big ones is simply by not leaving enough time for the other person to really consider the document. The timing can be crucial.

For instance, maybe you asked your spouse for the prenup just three days before you were going to be married. You got nervous at the last second and wanted to get the paperwork in before you said "I do."

The problem is that your spouse may claim to have been under duress, signing it no matter what it said just so that you wouldn't call off the wedding. He or she didn't want to have to tell all 300 guests -- some of whom were already in town -- not to come, and your spouse didn't want to lose deposits on all of the venues. Though he or she signed the document, your spouse may claim it was not done out of free will, and the court could throw it out.

As you can see, it's important to really understand how the prenup works, how it must be filed, and how it's going to impact the divorce. Don't assume anything and always be sure you understand your legal rights.

Source: FIndLaw, "Top 10 Reasons a Premarital Agreement May be Invalid," accessed March 14, 2017

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