Can A Prenuptial Agreement Expire? How Long Do Prenups Last?

Since we live in an era when even bottled water has an expiration date, it’s only natural to start wondering how long other things are expected to last, including legal agreements. If you’re married and you signed a prenuptial agreement, is it still valid? How long do these agreements last?

If you’re considering a prenuptial agreement for an upcoming marriage or a postnuptial agreement in your existing marriage, you may be wondering if you need to renew it periodically to keep it from expiring. The team at Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC answers questions about this issue all the time. Like typical lawyers, we have to say first that the answer to the question depends on your specific circumstances. But we can explore some general concepts when it comes to the long-term validity of prenuptial agreements.

Does the Agreement Contain an Expiration Provision?

A prenuptial agreement is a contract between two prospective spouses, and like most contracts, the terms of the agreement itself generally determine how it operates unless it is silent on an issue or a provision violates the law or public policy. So the first factor to consider is whether the prenuptial agreement contains any provisions setting an expiration date or a condition which will cause the agreement to change or become ineffective. For instance, the agreement might specify that it is only valid for ten years from the start of the marriage and after that it will terminate. Or, the agreement might state that terms will change after a certain period of time or when a condition occurs, such as if the couple has children or when one spouse retires from full-time employment. It is quite common for couples to have a limited agreement on alimony, specifying that if they divorce, neither spouse will seek alimony—unless they have been married for ten years or more.

The bottom line is that to determine the continuing validity of a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, you need to comb through the terms and see if any terms establish conditions that could cause the agreement to end or change.

The Law Assumes the Agreement Remains Valid for the Length of the Marriage

Without a provision in the agreement specifying otherwise, the assumption in the law is that a properly-executed prenuptial or postnuptial agreement will stay valid for as long as the marriage lasts. That means that you do not need to take any action to renew the agreement—the terms remain in force as written.

It is possible to modify or revoke a prenuptial agreement in California as long as both parties agree in writing, and the amendment or revocation is handled in accordance with legal requirements. If you would like to revoke or change a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, it is a good idea to consult an attorney to ensure that the changes will be recognized in court if necessary.

The Agreement Must Satisfy Legal Requirements

Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements are far more complex than many people realize. Even attorneys don’t always fully understand the requirements and the ramifications of these agreements. Some people write up their own agreements without reviewing the statutory requirements. It is possible for a married couple to believe they are bound by the terms of an agreement that is actually not legally enforceable because it did not meet the standards for validity.

Section 1615 of the California Family Code outlines factors that will make a prenuptial agreement unenforceable. For instance, if one party did not sign voluntarily, the agreement is not valid. There is in fact a presumption the agreements are not signed voluntarily unless it is proven that the party objecting to the terms had the opportunity to be represented by an attorney and had sufficient time to review the document before signing. Or if the agreement was grossly unfair and the party against whom it is being enforced was not provided with full information about the other partner’s financial situation, then the agreement could also be unenforceable.

For a prenuptial agreement to be enforceable, it is important to ensure that the parties involved took the right steps to document fulfillment of the requirements, such as demonstrating that both parties consulted attorneys before signing or that they expressly waived their right to legal counsel.

Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC Helps Create, Change, and Revoke Marital Agreements

The process of creating a prenuptial agreement requires both partners to hold honest and thorough discussions about money matters, a topic which often lies at the root of problems in a marriage. Because of those conversations, creating a prenuptial agreement is one of the most important steps a couple can take to build a strong base for their marriage.

As life circumstances and goals change, the terms of an agreement may need adjustment to keep up. At Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC, our Certified Family Law Specialists and associates have 300+ years of collective experience securing the rights and interests of clients in marital agreements. Whether you are preparing a new agreement or need to enforce the terms of an existing agreement, we understand the most effective ways to assist. Schedule a confidential consultation today to learn more about how we can help.

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