Pennsylvania recognizes the general validity of premarital or prenuptial agreements. To a very large extent, the same principles that govern the enforcement and interpretation of contracts apply to the enforcement and interpretation of prenuptial agreements. Whether the court will enforce or ignore, in whole or in part, the parties’ agreement requires a case-by-case analysis of several factors.
Currently, Pennsylvania courts will invalidate the agreement if the parties did not make a “full and fair” disclosure of their respective assets and financial positions. Absent such a disclosure, the court will hold that there was a material misrepresentation that induced the other spouse into entering into the agreement. Remember that these are hardly arms-length transactions in that parties contemplating a marriage stand in a relation of mutual confidence and trust. Lack of full disclosure of financial resources and assets will invariably invalidate the agreement.
Similarly, the timing of the agreement vis-à-vis the date of the marriage could lead to a successful argument that the prenuptial agreement was signed under duress.
Importantly, however, the courts currently will not invalidate a prenuptial agreement for any of the following reasons:
- A party did not consult with independent legal counsel
- The agreement was not reasonable at the time it was signed
- There has been a change of circumstance during the marriage that makes the agreement unreasonable at the time it is sought to be enforced
- In hindsight, it was a bad bargain
The bottom line is that a properly drafted prenuptial agreement will be enforced. The poorly drafted agreement, or one that does not provide adequate disclosure, will be invalidated. Call Jeffrey Valocchi or Robert Teti of Valocchi & Fischer at (610) 269.0900 to discuss the drafting or interpretation of your premarital agreement.