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Prenuptial agreements are not ironclad

Many New York couples contemplating marriage agree to sign prenuptial agreements, thinking that these documents will stand up in any divorce court and protect their interests and future resources. While prenups are definitely a good idea when there is significant wealth or even the potential for same, it's important to realize that few are actually ironclad.

There is no one-size-fits-all-test for prenuptial agreements, but most divorce attorneys will tell you that some are definitely more airtight than others. In general, there are three questions that an attorney seeking a loophole for his client will ask.

The president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers says that the three pertinent questions to ask are, "When was it signed? Where was it signed? And under what conditions was it signed?"

The issue of timing is important because if a prenup is produced shortly before a wedding ceremony, the bride or groom may not have an opportunity to have an attorney review it to make sure it is something that should be signed. Signing a prenup without the benefit of a review by an independent attorney hired by the signer may be grounds to toss it out.

There are also factors involving the length of time the couple has been together. A couple who has set up housekeeping together and maybe even had one or more children together are in a far different situation than than a couple who have never lived together or even been intimate. The prenup for an established couple should reflect the confidential relationship that they already are sharing.

External factors like fraud, duress or extortion also matter when it comes to nullifying a prenup. If a groom approaches his bride with the document when a church full of people is awaiting her entrance and demands that she sign it or no marriage will take place, it could be construed as signed under duress.

If you sign it while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you may not have been legally competent at that time to enter into a binding legal contract.

Being able to legally prove that you were tricked into signing a document that doesn't reflect your best interests is best left up to a divorce attorney. He or she probably has a few tips that will allow the wiggle room necessary to get out of the contract.

Source: ABCNews, "How to Break a Prenup" Russell Goldman, Dec. 10, 2014

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