Many residents of Pennsylvania sign premarital agreements prior to their marriages, especially if the person has previously been married and divorced. Unfortunately, prenuptial agreements, like marriages, don’t always work out according to the parties’ intentions. Future events or the unethical acts of one party to the agreement can render enforcement of the agreement extremely unfair. The good news is that Pennsylvania law provides several methods of escaping from an unfair or unlawful premarital agreement.
To be enforceable in a Pennsylvania court, a premarital agreement must be in writing and signed by both parties before the wedding. The failure to meet these formal requirements will result in the agreement being declared invalid. Most premarital agreements are drafted by knowledgeable attorneys and they rarely fail for lack of compliance with the statutory formalities.
The general rule for invalidating a premarital agreement
The Pennsylvania statute governing premarital agreements states five reasons why such agreements may be declared invalid. The person seeking to have the agreement declared unenforceable has the burden of proving by “clear and convincing evidence” that the agreement falls into one of five categories.
Lack of voluntary agreement
The first such category is lack of consent by the party against whom enforcement is sought. This fact can be established by evidence of coercion, such as a threat to withdraw from the agreement to marry, if the agreement is not signed.
Inequitable conduct prior to the marriage
Pennsylvania law imposes on both parties of a premarital agreement an obligation to make full and fair disclosure of assets prior to executing the agreement. The agreement will not be enforced if the party seeking enforcement did not provide a full financial disclosure prior to execution.
Likewise, the agreement will not be enforced if the party against whom enforcement is sought was not provided a “fair and reasonable disclosure of the property or financial obligations” prior to signing the agreement. A third reason to deny enforcement is proof that the party against whom enforcement is sought did not have an adequate knowledge of the financial situation of the other party.
Seeking advice from a family law attorney
As can be inferred from this discussion, challenging the validity of a premarital agreement is a legally complex proceeding. Anyone seeking to challenge or seek enforcement of a premarital agreement may wish to consult a knowledgeable family law attorney.