What Happens When a Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreement is Invalidated in Massachusetts

On behalf of Edward L. Amaral, Jr. at Amaral & Associates, P.C.

Both prenuptial agreements and postnuptial agreements can be valuable tools for spouses. It can give guidance regarding the division of assets and support in the event of a divorce or a spouse’s death. It gives some predictability and certainty, which is not always guaranteed in the circumstances of a divorce in which there is neither a prenuptial agreement, nor a postnuptial agreement.

However, to have this predictability and certainty, the prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement must be valid and enforceable under the law. In a divorce proceeding, a spouse can seek to have the prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement invalidated by the court so that the agreement is not enforced. If a judge determines that the agreement is invalid, and thus not enforceable, then the predictability and certainty the agreement maintained is gone. One spouse may now get a greater share of assets or more support than originally agreed to by the parties.

Under Massachusetts law, there are some stringent requirements to making a prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement valid and enforceable. In general, both prenuptial agreements and postnuptial agreements must be fair and reasonable for both parties. Both parties must also sign the agreement freely and voluntarily, and not under duress or under false or fraudulent pretenses. Also, there must be a full financial disclosure by both parties, so there is full transparency of what either party may be waiving his or her rights to, whether it is a specific asset, or some support from the other spouse.

Another important consideration a court will review is whether both spouses had their own independent attorney to counsel each spouse as to his or her rights and responsibilities under the agreement. This is why it is crucial for engaged couples or already married spouses to each engage their own attorney. Experienced family law attorneys understand the requirements for having a valid and enforceable prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement. If one or both spouses attempt to enter into a prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement without the assistance of an experienced family law attorney, both spouses run the risk of the agreement being invalidated by the court in the future.