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When a judge may void a premarital agreement

Finances are an issue for many people leaving their marriages, and the wording of a premarital agreement may be what causes the financial problems, indicating that one spouse has no right to the business interest and income of the other. However, most divorce courts will not let one spouse walk away with most of the money and property while the other is destitute. 

In many cases, a spouse can challenge the enforceability of the premarital agreement and win. 

Enforcement

According to the North Carolina General Statutes, both spouses must sign the premarital agreement voluntarily or it is not valid. If one spouse put pressure on the other to sign, threatening to call off the wedding or using other coercive tactics, that may void enforceability. 

Spouses must each receive a fair disclosure of the other’s assets and liabilities, or else they must voluntarily and in writing waive the right to full disclosure. If, after the fact, one of the spouses discovers that the other hid assets in offshore accounts or had second mortgages on all the rental properties, it could change the outcome of the property division process. A judge will not honor an unconscionable contract. 

Public assistance

Perhaps both spouses signed the document fully believing they would honor it, but now, it will leave one spouse eligible for public assistance. Even if the agreement says that they are waiving alimony, the judge may order that one spouse pay support or else divide assets so that no one needs to apply for public assistance. 

Rather than fight about such matters in court, some spouses are willing to negotiate the terms based on the laws and reasonable expectations so that a challenge is not necessary. Spouses have the right to change a premarital agreement at any time as long as both make the change willingly and in writing.