A prenuptial agreement can help protect your wealth, as well as give you and your spouse predictability in case you ever get a divorce. But the family court judge does not automatically have to accept your prenup as the guide for division of property. You or your ex could challenge the validity of the prenup under Georgia law.
A prenuptial agreement is a type of contract. Like any contract, for it to be legally enforceable, both sides must agree to its terms of their own free will. If one side claims they did not sign the prenup of their own free will, one thing they can claim is that they were subject to undue influence.
What is undue influence?
In contract law, undue influence means one party to an agreement is in a position of power over the other and takes advantage of that power. In the context of a prenuptial agreement, the future spouses might have vastly different amounts of wealth and income coming into the marriage. The wealthier spouse could pressure their fiancé(e) into signing a prenup without giving them the chance to consult an attorney, negotiate terms or even read it carefully. They might even threaten to call off the wedding if the other spouse does not comply.
This is an example of using undue pressure to overcome a person’s free will and get them to sign a prenup they did not actually agree to and goes against their best interests. If a judge agrees that a prenup was the result of undue influence, they will declare it void.
Kelly Clarkson’s prenup upheld in court
Recently, singer and talk show host Kelly Clarkson won a major victory in her divorce. The judge in her case ruled that the prenuptial agreement she and her husband signed before their marriage is valid, thus granting her all the assets and income she earned during the marriage. Her husband had asked the court to throw out the prenup and grant him half the assets.
It isn’t clear from a news report exactly what Clarkson’s husband claimed was invalid about the prenuptial agreement, so we don’t know if undue influence was an alleged factor. But it is one of the most common reasons given in prenup challenges. Making sure your prenup is carefully negotiated and compliant with the law is the best way of avoiding this type of legal fight.