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How Does a Prenuptial Agreement Impact the Divorce Process?

For the most part, all divorce cases follow the same process. While the factors and challenges will vary from cases to case, each will follow the same general flow of events — unless a prenuptial agreement is involved.

A prenuptial agreement (commonly referred to as a “prenup”) is a legal contract formed by couples who are about to get married. It might contain elements like the following:

  • Lists of the assets owned individually by each partner
  • Which of these assets will remain the exclusive property of each spouse if the marriage should end in divorce
  • Guidelines for how marital property will be divided in the event of a divorce
  • An overview of each partner’s responsibility for existing debts
  • Limits to the amount of  maintenance one spouse will receive if the marriage ends in divorce

The existence of a prenup can be quite helpful in divorce proceedings, as it likely addresses many of the issues that would otherwise become points of contention. This means the discovery process could be shorter or less complicated and there could be much less tension during the divorce proceedings.

However, there are some downsides to using a prenup. The most common challenge is when one of the spouses asks a court to reject the contract. There must be valid reasons for this to happen, but a judge will review all the circumstances surrounding the way the agreement was prepared and signed.

For a prenup to be valid, it must be made in writing and free of any fraud. Neither spouse should have been under duress, under the influence of drugs, mentally incapacitated or coerced in any way at the time of the signing. The agreement must also not be grossly unfair.

If the court decides to analyze the validity of the prenup, more discovery would be necessary. This could lengthen the divorce process and make it an even more stressful process for everyone involved.

For the guidance and advice you need related to either divorce or prenuptial agreements, consult a skilled family law attorney with Jakubowski, Robertson, Maffei, Goldsmith & Tartaglia, LLP.