Could my prenuptial agreement be invalid?

Prenuptial agreements can be an effective way to protect your property and marital expectations in California. While they are not the right choice for many couples, they offer security, structure and peace to others, particularly to couples with highly valuable assets.

If you decide it is right for you, create your contract carefully according to state law to avoid rendering it invalid through careless mistakes.

What can a prenuptial agreement cover?

Prenuptial agreements almost always focus on material assets — property and finances. They dictate dispositions, divisions, management and control during a marriage, and can plan a clean division in case of divorce. But California prenuptial contracts may cover other marital expectations, as well. According to state law, they may apply to “any other matter, including their personal rights and obligations, not in violation of public policy or a statute imposing a criminal penalty.”

This leaves the possibilities for prenuptial agreements wide open, however, there are items that they expressly may not cover. You may not include anything that violates the law, and terms that would adversely affect children and their support are legally invalid.

What makes a prenuptial agreement vulnerable?

Agreements are open to dispute under some conditions. Both parties must willingly and of sound mind enter into prenuptial agreements by signing them after seven days of review, and each must have separate legal representation in the process. Each spouse must disclose his or her entire financial condition to the other before entering an agreement.

If your agreement does not meet these conditions, it may be vulnerable to dispute in court. Typically, a court will respect a lawful agreement, however, a judge has the option to rule an agreement unfair for any reason that “the court deems relevant.” Judges typically overrule a lawful agreement only in the case of unfair or unconscionable terms.