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Considerations when challenging prenuptial Agreements

Considerations when challenging prenuptial Agreements

Controlling appellate decisions of the Commonwealth teach that the following two (2) primary inquiries are essential in ascertaining the enforceability of a prenuptial agreement.

1. Was the Prenuptial Agreement valid when executed?  

This initial inquiry involves four considerations: (a) was the agreement fair and reasonable when executed; (b) were there sufficient financial disclosures; (c) does the agreement contain mutual waivers; and (d) was the agreement signed freely and voluntarily. That extensive negotiations may not have taken place is immaterial.  Regardless, it will be necessary to obtain the file of (and maybe even conduct the deposition of) the attorneys who drafted and negotiated the Agreement. 

2. Have any unforeseen circumstances occurred to one spouse since the Prenuptial Agreement was signed that would render enforcement unconscionable?

Questions to ask include: has one spouse’s mental or physical health deteriorated to the point that he is no longer able to support himself?  Has one spouse’s promised support been eroded by inflation?

Generally speaking, as the state’s highest court has observed:  “[a]n agreement, even a one-sided agreement that leaves the contesting party with ‘considerably fewer assets’ and imposes a ‘far different lifestyle after divorce’ than [he] had during the marriage is fair and reasonable unless ‘the contesting party is essentially stripped of substantially all marital interests.’”  Furthermore, “[d]isparity of income that has the potential to leave one spouse in an essentially different lifestyle is not a valid basis for determining that the agreement was invalid at its execution.”   The bottom line consideration from a review of the decisional law appears to be: Does the Agreement‘strip’ one spouse of ‘substantially all marital interests’ or, ‘vitiate the very status of the marriage?’” If the answer to these questions is “No,” the agreement will likely be specifically enforced.