Although people generally enter marriages with the intention of staying together for life, some couples cannot achieve that goal. They file for divorce for any of a number of reasons, including infidelity or slowly growing apart over the years. With divorce comes some degree of economic instability, as property division and support matters often depend on how a judge views the situation.
Some people choose to take some of the risk out of marriage by negotiating prenuptial agreements before legally committing to one another. Prenuptial agreements may include clauses that address expectations during the marriage and also terms related to property division and other aspects of divorce.
Sometimes, people agree to very unfavorable terms in a prenuptial agreement because they assume when signing it that they will never get divorced. They may then come to regret that decision when their marriage starts falling apart. It’s, therefore, important to understand that there are certain situations in which a judge may agree to set aside or invalidate a prenuptial agreement in North Carolina.
An unconscionable agreement
Sometimes, prenuptial agreements contain terms that protect one spouse at the expense of the other. Such scenarios may occur because only one spouse had legal representation. Those who are unaware of what the agreement really means and who receive no protections from the contract may be able to contest the prenuptial agreement by convincing a judge that it is unconscionable.
A situation involving duress
Sometimes, one person uses threats or coercion to manipulate someone else into signing a prenuptial agreement. One example would be a scenario in which a woman is pregnant and the man will only agree to marry her if she signs a prenuptial agreement. Evidence of duress or coercion forcing someone to sign the prenuptial agreement could lead to the courts setting the document aside during divorce proceedings.
Fraud, possibly related to disclosure
For a prenuptial agreement to be reasonable and valid, both parties signing would need to make complete financial disclosures to one another. If one person intentionally hides some of their property or lies about their debts when negotiating a prenuptial agreement, that intentional misrepresentation of their financial circumstances could lead to the invalidation of the prenuptial agreement later in family court. Someone can only establish fair and reasonable terms when they have a realistic understanding of their separate resources and future marital estate.
Understanding when the North Carolina courts may set aside or invalidate a prenuptial agreement can help people know what to expect during divorce proceedings and whether pursing litigation to challenge the document is likely to be a worthwhile endeavor.