Most experienced divorce attorneys in Ohio advise their clients to sign prenuptial agreements in accordance with the court-drafted rules that determine the validity of such agreements. In some cases, however, the terms of the prenuptial agreement prove to be burdensome, unfair to one party or the other, or generally unworkable.
Many people who find themselves subject to such an agreement want to know if the agreement can be undone. The answer is “sometimes.”
Raising the issue of possible invalidity
A person who wants to challenge the validity of a prenuptial agreement is usually required to take the first step toward such a challenge, and that step involves either a deliberate breach of the agreement or commencement of a lawsuit seeking a court order that the agreement is invalid.
In either case, the matter usually results in a court case with a judge making the final decision on the enforceability of the agreement.
Grounds for invalidating a prenuptial agreement
The first step in resolving the issue of enforceability is determining whether the formal requirements of the law have been satisfied. The agreement must be written and be signed by both parties. Oral prenuptial agreements are never enforced in Ohio. Both parties must make a complete disclosure of their assets and liabilities; the failure of one party to make such disclosures usually results in an order determining that the agreement is not enforceable. Neither party can have been coerced into signing the agreement. Similarly, the use by one party of a material fraudulent representation to obtain the signature of the other party can result in a determination of unenforceability.
Certain changes in circumstances can also lead to a determination that the agreement is unenforceable because it is unconscionable. These changes can include a deterioration in the couple’s standard of living, reduced employability of one of the spouses, or the occurrence of a severe injury or illness.
A finding of unconscionability will result if the court finds that the changes in the couple’s lives makes it difficult for the couple to return to the standard of living established during the marriage.