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Is a Prenup Binding?

What are the legal ramifications of this document if things don't end up "happily ever after"?
By Ryan Jones |

The simple to this question answer is yes. In fact, the Texas Family Code dedicates an entire chapter to prenups, or, as they’re called in the code, premarital agreements. But that’s not to say you and your future spouse can whip up a document on your laptop, sign your name, and expect it to be upheld in a court of law. Chapter 4 of the Family Code lays out all the necessary elements to a valid premarital agreement, as well as every aspect of the marriage it can legally regulate.

In order for a prenup to be valid, it must be in writing and signed by both you and your spouse. Obviously, the prenup isn’t an enforceable document until the marriage becomes official, so if you call off the wedding (or if the marriage is later deemed to be legally invalid), your prenup is worthless. Other things that can negate a deal include proof that one spouse was forced to sign the agreement, or that it is “unconscionable” – which is up to a court to decide – and that the spouse didn’t know and never voluntarily waived their right to know about their spouse’s true financial situation. In other words, if you lie to your spouse about how much money you have (or owe), and your spouse didn’t voluntarily waive their right to know or have access to your financial records, the deal is dead.

So just what can these deals cover in Texas? The most obvious is the dispersion of both real and personal property at divorce. You can predetermine how you want to divvy up land, assets, and cash. But you can also define the terms of alimony (or eliminate it altogether), establish rights to how property can be used, determine death benefits from life insurance policies, and more.

Premarital agreements are good options for couples who have a wide disparity in their assets, or have both accrued quite a bit of property on their own before tying the knot. And if you’re a little leery of locking down the terms of your divorce before your marriage has even begun, take solace in the fact that prenups can be amended after the marriage if both spouses agree on the new terms.

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