A prenuptial agreement, when executed, represents a legally binding contract that is enforceable by the court using the same principles for enforcement of any other contract. This means that almost any provisions that are agreed to will likely be enforced, even if the terms heavily favor one side. The Supreme Court reaffirmed this idea in the case of Porreco v. Porreco, wherein a prenuptial agreement could not be thrown out on the grounds of fraudulent inducement, when a man gave his wife a crystal engagement ring (not diamond) and substantially increased the ring’s value when inducing her to sign the prenuptial agreement with the promise that she would keep the ring in the event of divorce, because her reliance on the terms of prenuptial agreement was not reasonable.
There are two bases that a PA family court will consider when deciding whether to enforce a prenuptial agreement. The first is whether or not the agreement accords with basic contract principles, such as whether or not there was fraud, coercion, or duress when the agreement was signed, and whether both parties should reasonably have relied on the terms of the agreement. The second is whether or not a party makes “full and fair disclosure” of all assets before the agreement is signed.
Blocking enforcement of a prenuptial agreement is very difficult. Particularly when drafted by an experienced PA family lawyer, a prenuptial agreement will contain provisions saying that all assets have been fully disclosed and that all parties were represented. Consulting with an attorney from the beginning will also ensure that you have the time to fully negotiate the agreement, and do not leave it until the last minute. While an agreement may be unenforceable if it is extremely rushed, there is no guarantee that you will be able to get out of the terms to which you signed your name. Also, remember that the provision within the prenuptial agreement stating that there was full disclosure creates a presumption that all assets were disclosed, making it very difficult to argue differently in court. “Clear and convincing evidence” (a high evidentiary standard) is required to rebut this presumption.
The takeaway from this is that you have to be careful what you sign, because you will likely be held to it! Luckily, an experienced Allegheny County family law attorney can advise you during the drafting process, to make sure that you have all of the information before you sign. Contact our team today!