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How a premarital agreement might complicate divorces

Premarital agreements, also known as prenuptial agreements, are often used to protect the interests of both parties in the case of a divorce. In theory, they make divorces easier to process. For instance: X, Y and Z have been agreed to, so we will do X, Y and Z.

In reality, premarital agreements can complicate divorces, but that does not mean you should skip them. They can help protect your business and other high-value assets. Just understand that your divorce may not necessarily go smoothly just because there is a premarital agreement.

Allegations of coercion, unfairness and other issues

A premarital agreement can throw a wrench into your divorce if your spouse decides to challenge it. Perhaps your ex is alleging that she felt coerced into signing the agreement or did not have adequate time to review it. Maybe she says now that the value of your business was drastically underestimated for the agreement. Whatever the case, a premarital agreement challenge can draw out the divorce process, and psychologists, doctors and other experts may be called to testify. In contested divorces, you will probably have what amounts to a separate trial to determine the validity of the premarital agreement before your actual divorce proceeds.

Terms of the agreement could be nullified

Another wrinkle arises when there are allegations that the agreement or a section of it has been nullified. For instance, say that your business hit a rough patch for a year while you were married. Your spouse stepped in to help, working long hours at the business and investing personal money to keep the company afloat. Without that help, your business might not have survived. Because of that, your spouse might claim a stake in the business regardless of what the premarital agreement says. Alternatively, your spouse could claim a stake if she gave you business advice that turned out well.

This can also happen if you commingle inheritances, bank accounts and other assets that should have been kept separate. Once this type of shift happens, there is only so much that a prenuptial can do.

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