The estranged wife of famed rapper and producer Dr. Dre is challenging the validity and enforceability of the couple’s prenuptial agreement on two grounds:
- That she was coerced into signing it.
- That her husband ripped up the document three years into their 24-year union as a grand gesture of love and acknowledgment that she was compelled to sign it under duress.
Does ripping up a prenuptial agreement make it null-and-void?
Legally speaking: Probably not. It is possible to amend or release a prenuptial or marital agreement. However, it should be done with the assistance of an experienced New Jersey prenuptial agreement lawyer to ensure any changes will be recognized and enforceable.
Prenup Validity Evaluated on Merits
As our Freehold divorce attorneys can explain, every prenuptial contract must be carefully evaluated on its individual merits. Most challenges to enforceability stem from rules that were broken at the time the contract was signed.
Prenuptial agreements can be deemed invalid if they weren’t made in writing, they weren’t properly executed/signed prior to the wedding, someone was pressured, there was little time for consideration, someone committed fraud or decide or supplied incomplete information or at least one party wasn’t represented. Similarly, certain provisions may be unenforceable, such as those that modify child support obligations or determine custody arrangements.
Any divorce lawyer examining the validity of a prenuptial agreement is going to want to know:
- When was it signed? The closer to the date of the wedding it’s signed, the less water it may hold, as those involved may not have had adequate time to vet the contents. Another factor to the “when” was how long the two had been a couple before deciding to get married. Those who cohabitate and start families with each other prior to marriage need to make sure the prenuptial agreement reflects that relationship, or it could be successfully challenged.
- Where was it signed? Was it signed in the presence of lawyers or other third parties? Or was it signed in a bar on a scrap piece of paper, as was famously the case in 1989 with Stephen Spielberg. Some attorneys will even video tape the signing of the prenuptial agreement, to help bolster evidence (if later needed) that there was no coercion.
- What were the conditions under which it was signed? Were both parties represented by an attorney? Is there evidence of any fraud, duress, extortion or coercion? A significant power imbalance?
Simply ripping up the document – even if the intent is clear – may be a tough sell on the issue of enforceability.
Why Ripping it Up May Not Matter
The problem with simply shredding a document is that most prenuptial agreements expressly state no covenants or promises outside of that agreement will be taken into account – particularly if both parties had their own attorney representing them. Physically destroying a contract won’t change the terms of it. The only way it might make a difference is if there is no copy or other evidence of it and no witnesses willing to testify that it ever existed.
There are all kinds of reasons why someone may want to alter the terms of a prenuptial agreement – or disregard it entirely. But to do this, it’s best to hire an attorney to help you draw up an amendment (usually an additional page or so).
It’s also possible to draft a release of marital agreement, which like an amendment, will need to be signed by both parties and notarized.
Involving an attorney is important so you can ensure the legal language used will have the impact you’re both intending.
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