Premarital agreements have long been recognized by the state of Texas as a way for soon-to-be married couples to specify property ownership rights before tying the knot. Perhaps more commonly referred to as prenuptial agreements, these contracts offer couples a mechanism to safeguard certain items from property division in the unfortunate event of a divorce. These agreements can also provide some estate planning framework if either of the spouses dies during the marriage.
One of the most attractive of the benefits of forming a prenuptial agreement is the avoidance of expensive litigation later down the road. However, it is important to know that Texas law requires that a prenuptial agreement fully comply with legal requirements surrounding the formation of any legally enforceable contract.
For example, there is a presumption that both parties will be fair with each other by openly disclosing all of their property and assets to each other before signing the prenup. In other words, a Texas court may consider a prenuptial agreement unenforceable if it is later revealed that one party was attempting to conceal property from the other. This type of activity is known as misrepresentation or fraud and can invalidate a contract.
Texas law regarding prenuptial agreements also requires that there be no duress or coercion surrounding the formation of the contract. Coercion is generally understood as some manner of undue pressure applied to a person in order to get them to do something. Imagine a potential husband threatening to abandon his pregnant fiancée unless she agreed to sign the prenup.
Another grounds for challenging a Texas premarital agreement is to claim that the enforcement of the contract would be unconscionable. Generally, this type of argument says that the terms of the agreement are too unfair to one party. An example of an unconscionable premarital agreement is one that assigns nearly all of the property to one spouse in the event of a divorce.
If you are currently contemplating marriage, then a premarital agreement might be a good way to ensure that your future interests are protected. Getting advice from your Texas family law attorney about drafting your prenuptial agreement can be a good first step. Consultation with your attorney is perhaps the best way to ensure that any contract between you and your future spouse form will be valid and enforceable later down the road.
Source: Statutes of the State of Texas- Family Code Chapter 4, “Premarital and marital property agreements” accessed Jan. 19, 2015