Premarital agreements have become a common feature of North Dakota marriages. In fact, most family lawyers who practice in the state will encourage their clients to sign such an agreement if the circumstances are appropriate. What happens, though, if circumstances change or the agreement is discovered to be unfair or the result of fraud?
North Dakota has adopted the Uniform Premarital and Marital Agreements Act, a statute that is in effect in the majority of states. This statute specifies the formal requirements of a valid premarital agreement and the conditions that are necessary to enforce it. The first requirement is that the agreement be in writing and signed by both parties before the marriage occurs. A verbal premarital agreement or one that is lacking the signature of one of the parties is unenforceable. Very few agreements are not signed by both parties and these objections are rarely raised.
The more frequent objections involve the pre-signing behavior of one or both parties. The statute requires adequate financial disclosure by both parties in order to be enforced. If a party was coerced into signing the agreement to which objection was made, or if a party is coerced into signing an agreement without receiving the necessary financial disclosures from the other party, the agreement is unenforceable. Another grounds for invalidating the agreement is the aggrieved party showing that he or she was deprived of the opportunity to obtain the advice of independent counsel before signing the document. The statute makes certain terms unenforceable, such as an agreement to waive child support, or penalizes a party for initiating a legal proceeding. Any term defining or limiting parental rights can be set aside by the court.
Anyone who signed a premarital agreement and now finds the terms of the agreement to be harsh and one-sided may wish to consult a capable divorce attorney for advice on whether the agreement can be attacked as invalid upon enforcement.