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Although prenuptial agreements were once used to protect the assets of a wealthy spouse in the event of a high net worth divorce, they are now used for a variety of reasons. In addition to outlining asset division, prenuptial agreements can also contain specifics on how estates, properties, debts, and marital responsibilities should be handled. At Hedayati Law Group P.C., we help spouses put together strong, clearly worded prenuptial agreements before their upcoming union.
Why Draft a Prenuptial Agreement?
There are a number of reasons people decide to put together prenuptial agreements before marriage. Having a prenuptial agreement can give couples peace of mind, reduce unnecessary conflict down the road, and address how certain issues will be handled in the case of a divorce. You and your spouse may be able to use this agreement to avoid costly litigation when disputes arise.
A prenuptial agreement offers many benefits, including:
- Protecting the assets each party acquired before the union
- Protecting inheritances and business assets/interests
- Protecting joint assets outside of the marriage
- Protecting one spouse from the other's debts
- Clearly defining property distribution in the event of a divorce
When is a Prenuptial Agreement Invalid?
Factors that can cause a prenuptial arrangement to be declared void include:
When signing the deal, all sides must be of sound mind and cannot be coerced or intimidated into doing so. In addition, if a prenuptial agreement is signed too close to the wedding date, the courts will strike it down. Couples should sign the document at least a few months before their wedding date. This relieves a lot of the tension that comes with arranging a wedding, as well as the pressure that comes with the days leading up to the big day.
The wording of this text, like any other legal document, must be transparent and not subject to interpretation. The prenuptial document must be in written, not oral, according to the courts. A licensed matrimonial attorney may draft a prenuptial arrangement that complies with court requirements. The wording of a prenuptial agreement in New York must be explicit and legitimate. This is far too significant a legal document to take chances with or try to make on your own.
If a prenuptial deal explicitly benefits one party over the other, it is considered unconscionable. It's not unusual for an agreement to cover one party marginally better than the other, but it can't go so far as to make the agreement surprising. For example, if the arrangement allows one party to be a stay-at-home parent and not earn any money of their own, but forbids that party spousal support if the marriage dissolves, the courts will find that the agreement is null and unjust.
Are Prenups Enforceable in New York?
Prenuptial agreements (prenups) are generally enforceable in New York, subject to certain requirements.
In New York, for a prenup to be considered valid and enforceable, it must be in writing and signed by both parties before the marriage. The agreement should also be fair and reasonable, and each party must have had the opportunity to consult with their own independent legal counsel before signing.
Additionally, the prenup cannot be unconscionable, meaning it cannot be so one-sided as to be fundamentally unfair or oppressive to one party. In determining unconscionability, the court will consider the totality of the circumstances, including each party's assets, their respective bargaining power, and any other relevant factors.
If the court determines that the prenup meets the necessary requirements, it will be enforced as a contract between the parties. However, if the court finds that the prenup is invalid, it will not be enforced, and the property and assets will be divided according to the default divorce rules of New York law.
Of course, as Long Island family lawyers with 150+ years of combined experience, we understand that you are not entering a marriage with the expectation that it will end with a divorce; however, it is very important that you prepare properly for the possibility. In some cases, prenuptial agreements may be challenged or need to be modified. You will need an experienced Long Island divorce attorney on your side to help you create or modify the document carefully in order to ensure that it covers all the necessary terms and is legally binding.