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Hastily presented prenuptial agreements may not hold up in court

Whether or not you consider yourself wealthy, you likely have some personal assets that you'd like to protect if you ever get divorced. Young Americans are waiting longer to get married, which means they are often more financially secure going into the relationship.

If you are considering marriage, you have hopefully also considered a prenup. In the event of divorce, these documents can make the process much faster, cheaper and less contentious. But this is only possible if the agreement is constructed properly.

One major consideration in assessing the validity of a prenuptial agreement is whether it was entered into willingly by both spouses, with no evidence of coercion or fraud. Practically speaking, this means that the prenuptial agreement should be discussed and presented as early into the engagement as possible, before other plans are made.

In a recent news article, a self-described celebrity divorce lawyer noted that if one party asks for a prenup after wedding plans have been made, the other person might later claim that they signed the agreement under duress or coercion. He gave this example: "A wife certainly could say, 'Listen, I invited all these people, I brought these people from all across America, I'd be humiliated, so I would have signed a laundry ticket if you'd given it to me.'"

In order to keep the peace now and ensure that neither party can claim duress or coercion later on, the prenuptial agreement should be discussed, negotiated and signed well before the wedding (six months or more, if possible). Moreover, each spouse-to-be should have time and opportunity to discuss the terms with his or her own lawyer. That way, both parties fully understand what they are agreeing to.

Although they have not always enjoyed a good reputation, prenuptial agreements are more useful and necessary than ever before. But they are only useful if they can be enforced. That's why you should seek the advice and help of an experienced family law attorney when creating or considering one.

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