When a Prenuptial Agreement May Be Declared Invalid by the Courts in Maryland

Prenuptial agreements can be an important part of a couple’s pre-marital planning. Obviously, if you’re going to the trouble to create and execute a prenuptial agreement, you want to be sure that the prenuptial agreement you have is something that, if it is eventually needed, will be enforced by the courts. A skilled Maryland divorce lawyer can help you in setting up your prenuptial agreement to get something that will meet the law’s requirements and do what it is supposed to do.

Here in Maryland, there are several ways that a prenuptial agreement may fail to qualify to be enforced. A recent case from Montgomery County is an example of how the process can go wrong and lead to an invalid agreement.

G.H. and H.H. were a couple who married in the summer of 2011. It was his third marriage and her second. According to the wife, the husband did not bring up anything about a prenuptial agreement until roughly one week before the wedding day. The agreement that the husband presented to the wife was written by the husband’s lawyer and was composed in English, a language with which the wife allegedly had limited skills.

She had a lawyer, but her counsel was someone who was suggested by the husband’s attorney. The wife, who was Egyptian, was not given a translator. The wife signed the agreement less than a week before the wedding and very shortly before she went for a wedding dress fitting.

After the marriage fell apart, the wife filed for divorce. The husband asked the court to enforce the prenuptial agreement. The judge, however, ruled that that the prenuptial agreement was invalid.

So, how exactly can a prenuptial agreement be invalid?

One way is if the agreement wasn’t put down in writing. Oral prenuptial agreements are not enforceable. Additionally, if you were not provided with an opportunity to read your agreement before you signed it, then the agreement can be invalidated. If your spouse unduly pressured you to sign the agreement, perhaps not giving you enough time to get your own lawyer, then those facts can be keys to your getting your agreement tossed.

Timing can also play a role. If your spouse presents you with a prenuptial agreement on the eve of your wedding and demands that you sign or else he/she will call the whole thing off, that may be compelling evidence of an invalid agreement. Under the law, a scenario like that is proof that the contract was procured using improper coercion which, like duress or fraud, can make a prenuptial agreement unenforceable.

Furthermore, if your spouse hid relevant assets from you, then that could potentially be considered fraud and that fraud might be sufficient to prevent enforcement of your prenuptial agreement.

In H.H.’s case, the trial court found that many of these things were present. The agreement was drawn up by the husband’s attorney. The wife’s attorney was someone hand-picked by the husband’s lawyer, calling into question the quality and independence of the legal advice she received. The lack of translation services raised questions about the wife’s ability to read and comprehend the agreement in a meaningful way. There were missing assets in the husband’s financial disclosure, which raised the possibility of fraud. Finally, the husband’s demand that the wife sign right before a scheduled wedding dress fitting raised the potential of duress, as well. All of that, taken together, was enough to get the agreement thrown out.

It’s not enough to get a prenuptial agreement and get it signed by your spouse-to-be. You need an agreement that does what you need and will stand up to any potential court challenges down the road. For the advice and advocacy you need for your situation, count on the experienced family law attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC. When you need a prenuptial agreement, we are here to help you not just to get it done, but done right. To learn more about how we can assist you, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

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