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Can prenuptial agreements be invalidated?

States and courts have rules that vary when it comes to prenuptial agreements. The private contracts are signed before marriage to divide marital assets, according to a couple's wishes in the event of divorce.

The agreements can be simple or as complicated as Texas couples want to make them. Divorce attorneys say more couples than ever before are signing prenuptial agreements. One lawyer estimated that the popularity of the contracts increased by as much as 10 times during the last two decades because the agreements are no longer "taboo."

Some pre-marital contracts are highly detailed and conditional. Family law attorneys say everything from infidelity to alimony and even terms of spousal weight gain might be included in the agreement.

The primary reason fiancés sign prenuptial agreements is to protect property they want to keep out of the marital property pool. The contracts are unbreakable in some jurisdictions and more open to interpretation in other courts. Invalidation of a prenup is uncommon, but possible when the document is drafted incorrectly. An error in legal preparation can upend the agreement.

Spouses who fail to disclose assets might be punished with a divorce agreement do-over. A Texas man tried to pull a bait and switch with a "revised" prenuptial agreement on the day of his wedding. His wife later learned that the husband had tried to hide millions of dollars in assets.

Prenuptial contracts cannot include an agreement that cannot be carried out. A prenup with a child support provision that absolves one spouse of financial responsibility for children will not be recognized by a court.

While some divorce attorneys say they've never seen cases where coercion caused a prenuptial contract to be thrown out of court, rules do exist to do just that.

Prenuptial contracts have a place among couples who want to avoid financial surprises in case of divorce. The agreements can save time, money and conflict when fiancés enter a well-drafted contract honestly and fairly.

Source: reuters.com, "Breaking up is hard to do, breaking prenup is harder," Geoff Williams, Oct. 5, 2012

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