A premarital agreement, also referred to as a prenuptial agreement or “prenup”, is a written contract created by two people before they are married. The contract addresses various rights and obligations of both parties if the marriage were to end, and often settles property distribution and alimony. A premarital agreement must be in writing and signed by both parties. In North Carolina, premarital agreements are governed by the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act. This statute lays out when a premarital agreement can and cannot be enforced. 

A premarital agreement is not enforceable, and can be nullified, in the following limited circumstances: 

  • One party signed under duress, or as a result of coercion; or 
  • The agreement was unconscionable.

If one party is able to prove to the court that he or she signed a premarital agreement involuntarily, a judge may render the premarital agreement invalid. Although this is a way to invalidate a premarital agreement, it is very difficult to prove. It is not necessarily duress in the eyes of the court that one party provides the other with the agreement either shortly before the wedding day or on the wedding day because the surprised party can simply choose not to get married.

Another way to invalidate a premarital agreement is to show that the agreement was unconscionable. An agreement can be determined unconscionable when one party fails to disclose all of his or her debts and obligations that exist, or one party did not fully disclose the extent of his or her wealth. Although each party having his and her separate attorney during the negotiations of the agreement can strengthen the argument that the agreement was not unconscionable, the mere fact that one party did not have an attorney at the time the agreement was entered into does not, on its face, invalidate a premarital agreement. 

Contact Hatcher Law Group to consult with an experienced family law attorney to understanding your rights and options moving forward.