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Prenuptial Agreements

Generally, prenuptial agreements are favored and enforceable under Missouri law. To be enforceable, a prenuptial agreement must be based upon full disclosure of all relevant facts between both parties entering into the agreement. The parties must both fully understand what they are agreeing to and both parties must be acting in good faith.  Furthermore, the agreement itself must be fair and reasonable.  In other words, a court will not approve a prenuptial agreement simply because both sides have agreed to the terms – those terms must be fair.

Prenuptial agreements must be entered into before the marriage. As a general rule, terms of the agreement dealing with property and most other financial matters will be upheld by the court if they are fundamentally fair. However, issues dealing with child custody and child support will be fully reviewed by the court.  Of course, a judge will probably consider what the parties have agreed to as one factor, but will also have to decide whether or not the terms of the agreement are in the best interests of the child(ren).  

As mentioned above, a prenuptial agreement can only be valid after full disclosure by both parties of all of their assets and holdings. It’s important to remember that the actual terms agreed upon may be changed by the actions of the parties during the marriage.  For example, if one spouse had agreed that the other’s inheritance was to be held out as separate property, that could change if the inheriting spouse used that money to make a down payment on the marital home.  While this wouldn’t necessarily mean the money was not marital property, it would likely mean that portion of the prenuptial agreement would no longer be enforceable.  In other words, the money would be treated as it would in a divorce in which a prenuptial agreement did not exist.  Therefore, a pre-nuptial agreement is not a “magic bullet” that protects both parties throughout the marriage, regardless of their actions. Indeed, constant vigilance is still required.

A prenuptial agreement can always be challenged by either party during a divorce. The party challenging the agreement has the burden of proof to show that the terms were invalidated or that some (or all) of the document is unfair. If a court finds that the previously mentioned requirements were not followed, or that the agreement is somehow “unconscionable” the agreement will not be enforceable.  This is why it is so important to follow all of the rules of disclosure and to work closely with a St Louis prenuptial agreement attorney before attempting to execute a prenuptial agreement.