Not All Prenuptial Agreements are Valid

Prenuptial agreements, or “antenuptial agreements,” are legal in Minnesota, but to be enforceable they must meet certain standards. Each party must have entered into the agreement freely and with a proper understanding of it. Minnesota statute 519.11 states:

A man and woman of legal age may enter into an antenuptial contract or settlement prior to solemnization of marriage which shall be valid and enforceable if (a) there is a full and fair disclosure of the earnings and property of each party, and (b) the parties have had an opportunity to consult with legal counsel of their own choice.

If a spouse was not honest about their finances or property, this could be considered fraud, and a prenuptial agreement could be invalidated under this law. The opportunity to consult with an attorney before signing a prenuptial agreement generally requires that the agreement be proposed well in advance of a wedding. A common prenuptial agreement pitfall occurs when a party sees the prenuptial agreement for the first time just a few hours before a wedding. In these cases it is usually impossible for that party to adequately consider the agreement, much less consult legal counsel, and the agreement is likely to be considered invalid.

A prenuptial agreement also must be in writing in Minnesota. Except under rare circumstances, a Minnesota court will not uphold an oral prenuptial agreement. A prenuptial agreement may also not include grossly unfair terms.

Prenuptial agreements are enormously important documents, and before couples sign them, they should be reviewed by an attorney to ensure that they will be valid. Each party should also have an adequate chance to think about the agreement, and a chance to meet with their own attorney to get advice about it. If you would like more information about this issue, please contact us.