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July 29, 2019

Can Prenuptial Agreements Override State Laws?

Can pre-nuptial agreements override state laws?

Prenuptial agreements are relatively common in marriages where one of the parties earns a substantial income or owns valuable assets. A “prenup” is a legal agreement that couples execute before they marry to determine the division and ownership of their assets in the event of a divorce. Wealthy spouses may request a prenup to protect their financial rights. They may also want one when entering into a second marriage to ensure their children from a previous union have no issues receiving their inheritance.

In many states, the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act sets forth the rules and guidelines that apply to prenuptial agreements. Drafted in 1983, the UPAA is designed to ensure consistency in the creation and enforcement of formal prenuptial contracts. For example, states can refuse to enforce an agreement that places one of the parties in financial jeopardy.

South Carolina is one of the states that does not abide by the UPAA. Instead, various statutes and case law rulings regulate formal prenuptial contracts written in Charleston, Greenville and elsewhere in the Palmetto State.

Prenuptial Agreements vs. South Carolina State Law

Because South Carolina hasn’t adopted the UPAA, questions regarding the enforceability of agreement may arise in some cases. In general, the courts will view a prenuptial agreement to be valid and enforceable if all of the following conditions exist:

  • A spouse did not obtain the agreement by committing fraud, causing the duress of the other spouse, making a mistake or misrepresenting or failing to disclose material facts.
  • The terms of the agreement are not unconscionable, meaning that they would not have prevented a “reasonable” person from signing the contract.
  • There has been no change in circumstances since signing the contract that would make enforcing it unfair or unreasonable.
  • Each spouse fully disclosed all their assets and debts when entering into the agreement.
  • Each spouse has a “generally accurate” understanding of the other’s financial status.
  • The terms of the agreement do not promote divorce.
  • The agreement is reasonably fair and not heavily weighted toward one party or the other.
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What About Child Custody and Child Support?

A crucial area where a prenuptial agreement won’t override state laws in South Carolina is child custody and child support arrangements. In some situations, parties may have added provisions in the contract that stipulate with whom the children will live and how much financial support an ex-spouse will receive to care for them in the event of a divorce. The judge will disregard these arrangements and apply the state’s child custody and support laws to resolve the matter. However, this process will not invalidate the rest of the agreement.

Getting Legal Help With Prenuptial Agreements in South Carolina

If you’re in the Charleston, South Carolina area and thinking of entering into a prenuptial agreement or have questions regarding the terms of an existing contract, Lauren Taylor Law can help. We have extensive experience in handling all types of marital and divorce legal issues. Contact us to learn more today.