Prenuptial contracts are widely misunderstood, and they can be incredibly valuable to more people than might realize it. These contracts are signed by two people who intend to marry. The prenuptial contract outlines each spouse’s rights and responsibilities regarding the marriage as well as procedures determined in advance for handling a future divorce.

Some may think it distasteful to think about a marriage potentially ending before it even officially begins. Some people may consider it a sign of a lack of faith in the impending marriage for their partners to suggest prenuptial contracts. The reality is that these documents can limit uncertainty and help a marrying couple have difficult conversations sooner rather than later, providing them both with peace of mind and potentially bringing them closer together by encouraging open and honest communication.

Purpose of the Prenuptial Contract

A prenuptial contract’s main purpose is to determine what happens should the married couple decide to split. While many people assume that prenuptial contracts are the concerns of the wealthy, virtually anyone can benefit from having a prenuptial contract establish their rights and responsibilities before committing to marriage.

A good prenuptial contract must outline each spouse’s rights in the marriage as well as how the couple agrees to handle divorce. For example, if two wealthy people marry, they may establish completely separate financial portfolios and keep them separated. In this case, the prenuptial contract will ensure they both retain separate ownership of the properties they owned when they entered the marriage. In most prenuptial contracts, the couple’s terms will not be as simple as this. The couple needs to be thorough when devising their prenuptial contract for the most agreeable results, so they minimize the chance of complex financial questions extending their divorce proceedings.

It’s not uncommon for divorcing couples to face difficult questions in their divorce proceedings that may have been avoided with prenuptial contract development. While drafting your prenuptial contract may not seem like a very romantic thing to do before getting married, it’s an important step. The reality is that having a conversation about your prenuptial contract can help both you and your spouse understand one another’s hopes, priorities, and expectations more clearly.

Prenuptial Contract Enforceability in a Metro East Divorce

Taking the time to draft a prenuptial contract can turn out to be a tremendous advantage in the future if you and your spouse decide to divorce. A well-constructed and enforceable prenuptial contract can essentially act as a guidebook for the couple’s divorce, outlining the terms of their divorce decree. As long as the couple’s circumstances have not changed so significantly as to cause an undue financial hardship on one spouse or the other, the prenuptial contract could potentially outline exactly how the divorce will proceed.

For a prenuptial contract to be enforceable in Illinois, the couple must have it drafted in writing, sign it in view of formal witnesses, and may only sign when they are of sound and clear mind with full consent. A prenuptial contract signed under the influence or under duress is unlikely to be enforced in a Metro East family court. It is also essential to ensure that all terms and conditions included in the prenuptial contract are fair and reasonable. For example, the divorcing couple may include an infidelity clause that states a cheating spouse must forfeit financial compensation to the other spouse if any alleged extramarital activities are proven true.

The best way to ensure the enforceability of a prenuptial contract is to have reliable legal counsel guide you through the contract drafting process. An experienced Metro East, IL family law attorney can help an engaged couple assess their assets, priorities, and goals for their marriage to develop the most comprehensive prenuptial contract possible. It’s also possible for the couple to revisit their prenuptial contract in the future after major life events, financial changes, or changes in the couple’s priorities.

Challenging or Invalidating a Prenuptial Contract in Divorce

It’s possible for a prenuptial contract to be believed to be enforceable and binding. However, if either spouse intentionally conceals important information or assets when developing the prenuptial contract, that could change. The other spouse can potentially challenge the enforceability of the prenuptial contract or flat-out invalidate it using tangible, objective evidence.

If any fraud, duress, coercion, or “unconscionable acts” contributed to the development and/or signing of a prenuptial contract, it will be null and void in divorce proceedings. The divorcing couple would then undergo a standard divorce process and, if litigated, a Metro East, IL family court judge will have the final say in their divorce decree.

Additional Challenges With Prenuptial Contracts in Metro East, IL Divorces

A thoroughly detailed and properly developed prenuptial contract can eliminate a great deal of uncertainty in a Metro East, IL divorce case. However, a couple divorcing under the terms of a prenuptial contract must remember that these contracts cannot address every issue that requires consideration in divorce proceedings.

Your prenuptial contract may outline terms and conditions for your divorce pertaining to separate property rights, alimony, spousal support, and other financial issues between you and your spouse. However, it cannot outline child support, child custody, or other variables related to the care of your minor children. You and your spouse should expect to settle these and other issues beyond the purview of your prenuptial contract.  It is possible for you and your spouse to avoid litigation and mediate child custody privately, saving you both time and money compared to litigation.

Depending on how long you are married, it’s likely your prenuptial contract may require occasional revision or adjustment. You may eventually realize that you and your spouse do not really need it. However, it can still be a good exercise in communication to discuss changes to your prenuptial contract and maintain it over time. Doing so also acts as a security blanket, providing you with peace of mind knowing your contract is reliable should your marriage unexpectedly end in the future. Whether you want to develop a new prenuptial contract or revise an existing prenup, it’s essential to have reliable legal guidance as you navigate these complex documents and the legal statutes pertaining to them.