A prenuptial agreement – also known as a “prenup” – is essentially a contract created between two people before they get married. Like any other contract, it must comply with all applicable state laws in order to be valid and enforceable.
If a prenup does not comply with applicable statutes, a Texas court may deem the agreement unenforceable. For this reason, it is critical to seek help from a Georgetown divorce attorney to help you draft an enforceable and valid prenup before you become married.
Why Texas Courts May Deem a Prenuptial Agreement Invalid
It is important to know why Texas courts may find a prenuptial agreement invalid under state law to avoid mistakes when drafting your own prenup. Below are the six most common reasons a prenuptial agreement may be thrown out by a Texas court.
1. The Prenup Was Not Signed Before the Marriage
The word “prenuptial” has the prefix “pre” for a reason. Under Texas law, a prenuptial agreement must be drafted and signed prior to the marriage. Even if the parties sign a prenup immediately after the wedding, it is still likely to be deemed invalid because it was signed after the marriage.
A common pitfall for many couples who want to create a legally binding prenuptial agreement is that that they may be unknowingly married when signing the agreement. It may be possible because Texas recognizes common-law marriage.
In other words, if you begin cohabitating with your soon-to-be spouse before the marriage and your relationship meets other criteria of a common-law marriage, you may be considered “legally married” before your wedding.
In other words, a court may find your prenuptial agreement invalid if it was signed when you were already legally married, even if you did not have a marriage license at the time.
2. The Prenup Was Unconscionable When Drafted
To be valid and enforceable, a prenuptial agreement cannot be unconscionable when drafted and signed by the parties. The term “unconscionable” means that the terms of the contract are unfair or oppressive to one party.
What qualifies as unconscionable is determined on a case-by-case basis. A prenup – just like any contract, for that matter – can be voided when it is unjust or extremely one-sided in favor of one party.
However, when attempting to invalidate a prenup on the grounds of “unconscionability,” the oppressed party may still be required to prove other elements to void the contract.
If you are seeking to invalidate a prenuptial agreement, speak with a Georgetown divorce attorney to help you prove that the contract is unconscionable.
3. The Prenup Was Signed Before the Parties Had Knowledge of Finances
A prenup may be deemed invalid if the agreement was signed before both parties had knowledge of each other’s finances and assets. For example, if your fiancé failed to disclose the fact that they own an apartment in another city at the time of creating and signing a prenuptial agreement, the court may invalidate the prenup.
Under Texas law, both parties must have knowledge of each other’s finances and assets prior to signing a prenuptial agreement.
4. The Prenup Was Not Signed Voluntarily
Many prenuptial agreements are deemed invalid because one of the parties did not sign the contract voluntarily. Texas Family Code § 4.006 requires both parties to a prenup to enter into the agreement voluntarily. Otherwise, the agreement will be deemed invalid.
If one party does not sign a prenup with their own free will, the court will most likely invalidate the entire agreement. However, it may not be enough to prove that the contract was signed involuntarily if you argue that:
You did not have a chance to read the agreement in full before signing it; or
Your spouse would not agree to marry you unless you signed the agreement.
Typically, the party seeking to invalidate a prenuptial agreement on the grounds of involuntariness must demonstrate proof of duress or undue influence.
5. The Prenup Was Not Written Like a Contract
To be deemed valid, a prenuptial agreement must be in writing and written like a contract. That is why it is so important to get help from an experienced attorney to help you write an enforceable prenuptial agreement in accordance with contract law.
One of the most common mistakes parties make when attempting to draft a prenuptial agreement without an attorney is using ambiguous or unclear language.
6. The Prenup Was Not in Writing
A court will invalidate your prenuptial agreement if it is not in writing. Texas law requires prenups to be in writing to be considered valid and legally binding.
To be considered valid, a prenuptial agreement must be:
In writing; and
Signed by both parties.
An oral prenuptial agreement is not legally enforceable even if one of the parties recorded the conversation. Still, just because your prenuptial agreement is in writing is no guarantee that the prenup is enforceable and valid under Texas law.
It is advisable to seek legal counsel before you draft or sign a prenuptial agreement in Texas.
How to Ensure That My Prenuptial Agreement is Valid and Enforceable?
Like many other states, Texas follows the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act, also known as UPAA, which provides for the circumstances in which prenups are enforceable. Under the UPAA, a prenuptial agreement is valid if the following requirements are met:
The prenup is in writing;
Both parties enter the agreement voluntarily;
Each party has adequate knowledge of the other party’s finances;
Neither party has waived their right to disclosure of property; and
The agreement is executed before the marriage.
It is not the complete list of UPAA requirements that make prenuptial agreements valid and enforceable. Consult with a lawyer to discuss the validity of your prenup in Texas.