Challenging a Prenup in California
California is a community property state. While most other states divide marital property fairly (but not necessarily equally) upon divorce, California courts divide marital property 50/50, absent an agreement to the contrary. One agreement that is capable of changing the default property division rules is a prenuptial agreement, and such agreements are popular in California as a result. But like all contracts, prenuptial agreements are not ironclad; there are certain grounds that the party against whom the agreement is being enforced can rely on to challenge it. If you need to challenge a prenuptial agreement, our Stockton prenuptial agreement attorneys can assist you.
Grounds to Challenge a Prenup in California
The Agreement Was Not Entered Into Voluntarily
All contracts must be entered into voluntarily and each party must have the requisite legal capacity to contract. While it is uncommon to physically force a person to sign a contract, courts generally find that contracts are not voluntary where it can be shown that one party’s signature was obtained through fraud, duress, or undue influence. California courts take an even broader view of voluntariness when it comes to prenuptial agreements. Under California law, courts assume that prenuptial agreements are invalid unless the challenging party (1) had legal representation (or waived legal representation in writing), (2) received at least seven days to review the agreement, (3) if not represented by counsel, was fully informed of the terms and basic effects of the agreement, and (4) signed without fraud, duress, or undue influence.
The Agreement Was Unconscionable
A contract that is unconscionable is one that is so unfair or oppressive to one party as to suggest abuses during its formation. A prenuptial agreement is considered unconscionable in California if the party against whom it is enforced (1) was not provided a fair, reasonable, and full disclosure of the other party’s assets and obligations, (2) did not waive, in writing, the right to a disclosure of the other party’s assets and obligations, and (3) did not have, or reasonably could not have had, adequate knowledge of the other party’s assets and obligations. Allegations of unconscionability tend to arise in cases where one party alleges that the other party hid assets before the marriage.
The Agreement Contains an Unenforceable Spousal Support Waiver
Provisions concerning spousal support — including waivers of spousal support — are permissible only if the party against whom they are enforced was represented by legal counsel at the time they were signed and the provisions are not unconscionable at the time of enforcement. While a party may waive legal representation in writing as to other terms, he or she must have legal representation as to spousal support terms. An otherwise unenforceable provision regarding spousal support also will not become enforceable merely because the party against whom it is enforced was represented by counsel. This could occur, for example, where the party was represented by counsel but the term was nonetheless unconscionable.
The Agreement Contains Illegal Terms
Prenuptial agreements in California generally are limited to terms concerning financial matters, probate matters, property division upon divorce, and other official matters. They may not contain provisions concerning child support or child custody. Provisions that could be construed as encouraging divorce also may not be enforceable.
Contact Our Stockton Prenuptial Agreement Attorneys for Help Challenging a Prenup
As you can see, prenuptial agreements are not necessarily set in stone. For more information about challenging a prenuptial agreement in California, please contact the Stockton prenuptial agreement attorneys at McKinley, Conger, Jolley & Galarneau by using our online form or calling us at 209-477-8171.