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Are there grounds to break my prenuptial agreement?

So you signed a prenuptial agreement limiting your access to marital assets in case of a split, and now divorce has reared its ugly head. Surely, you are wondering if that prenup is as airtight as you fear.

The answer may surprise you. While all cases are open to interpretation based on their own merits, or lack thereof, according to the president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, it may indeed be possible to invalidate a prenup dependent upon the answers to these questions:

-- Where was it signed?

-- When was it signed?

-- What were the conditions under which it was signed?

To illustrate, a blushing bride who is handed a pen and a legal document awaiting her signature as she arrives at the church on the morning of her wedding probably has ample grounds to contest her prenuptial agreement. Many would consider that, with a church full of her 250 closest friends and family eagerly awaiting her walk down the aisle, the prenup was signed under duress.

Because there may not be enough time to get an attorney to review a prenup in the days or even weeks leading up to the ceremony, the timing of the signing is crucial. Some courts have tossed out prenups that were never reviewed by an independent attorney for the signing party.

The extent of the relationship prior to the marriage is also a factor. Cohabiting couples who already have children from their union face different circumstances than those who have no pre-existing fiduciary responsibilities to one another. Any prenuptial agreement needs to reflect the special circumstances surrounding their ongoing confidential relationship.

Attorneys seeking to break a prenup will seize any evidence of fraud, duress or extortion that could influence their client to unwillingly sign off on a premarital agreement. Someone who was drunk or impaired by drugs, legal or otherwise, may have lacked the capacity to execute a legal document, further invalidating it.

Never assume that a prenup is ironclad. Address your concerns to a legal professional who can evaluate its merits and vulnerabilities in the event of a divorce.

Source: ABCNews, "How to Break a Prenup," Russell Goldman, accessed April. 08, 2015

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