There are several elements that a prenuptial agreement must have to be binding; if you can prove that the accord doesn’t satisfy one of the requisites, the courts will deem the prenuptial agreement invalid.

Perhaps your prenuptial agreement was made at a time when your life circumstances were vastly different from what they are today, and you think the contract is unfair. Maybe you were coerced into signing it. Or maybe there was a technical error that has invalidated your agreement.

Remember the final hearing of the Jim Carrey movie "Liar?" Carrey’s character, divorce attorney Reed, was able to get his client’s prenup thrown out because she lied about her birth date on the document and entered into it as a minor, which automatically invalidates it. Of course, the scene was highly sensationalized, but this sort of thing can and does happen in an actual divorce.

Reasons a Court Might Overturn a Prenuptial Agreement

Prenuptial agreements can be reversed when one of the parties raises a concern about its validity and proves that it doesn’t stand up to the legal requirements. Below are a few of the reasons a judge might overturn a prenup.

  • The paperwork wasn’t filled out correctly. If there are technical errors, or it doesn’t meet Washington’s legal standards of a binding agreement, it might be invalid.
  • Your spouse failed to list all of the assets on the document. Full disclosure is necessary for a prenup. Hiding assets is a common prenuptial agreement mistake that people make, often leading to invalidation of the legal document.
  • You signed it when you weren’t in your right mind. For example, if you were coerced, under the influence of alcohol, or otherwise didn’t have your full mental capacity when you signed it, the judge may render it invalid.
  • You didn’t have legal advice when you signed the agreement. If you didn’t have a lawyer assist you, it could be argued that you didn’t fully understand what you were getting into, and you didn’t have a full knowledge of your rights.
  • You and your spouse didn’t stick to the terms of your prenup.
  • The terms are grossly unfair. The courts might not allow for a prenup that leaves one spouse in economic ruins. The terms have to be relatively conscionable. Maintaining a standard of living similar to that enjoyed while in the marriage is something for which your divorce attorney may be able to argue.​
Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington