What is an “unconscionable” prenuptial agreement?

On Behalf of | Feb 12, 2024 | Family Law |

In the event of a divorce in North Carolina, the terms of your prenuptial agreement, commonly known as a “prenup,” often become a primary focus. This legal contract aims to protect individual assets and establish financial expectations within your marriage.

However, when the marriage ends, the focus shifts from the agreement’s terms to its fairness and its effect on the division of assets and property.

Factors that make an agreement unenforceable

In North Carolina, a prenuptial agreement may be considered “unconscionable,” or unenforceable, if it doesn’t meet certain standards. The court first examines whether you signed the agreement willingly. If evidence of coercion or undue pressure surfaces, the court will not enforce the agreement.

The court then reviews the fairness of the agreement at the time of signing and will evaluate:

  1. Did your future spouse honestly and fully disclose their financial obligations and property?
  2. Did you willingly waive, in writing, any right to additional disclosure beyond what your future spouse provided?
  3. Did you have a reasonable understanding of your future spouse’s financial obligations and property?

If your agreement falls short in any of these areas, the court may declare it “unconscionable” and thus unenforceable.

An unconscionable agreement in a divorce

The fairness of your prenuptial agreement isn’t a concern solely at the time of signing. It can also become a significant issue during a divorce. You might decide to challenge the enforceability or validity of the agreement. If the court determines that the agreement unduly favors your spouse, such as leaving you with little to no assets while your spouse retains the majority, it may deem it unfair. In such a case, the court would divide your marital property according to North Carolina’s laws, not the agreement. This could result in a more favorable distribution for you, such as a larger share of the marital home, more substantial alimony or a bigger portion of shared savings and investments.

Challenging a prenuptial agreement during a divorce can be complex. So, it might be beneficial to consult a legal professional. They can guide you through the process and protect your rights during this challenging time.