What happens when you’ve created and signed your premarital agreement but then realize you are unhappy with the resulting document or enforcement? A premarital agreement, once signed by spouses-to-be, becomes a legally binding contract upon marriage. Thus, you and your spouse are bound by the terms and conditions in the premarital agreement once you sign the document and get married.
Nevertheless, according to North Carolina General Statute § 52B-6, the premarital agreement—like most other contracts—can be amended or revoked. Timing can play a key role as to whether or not the agreement will be deemed legally amended or revoked. Amending or revoking a premarital agreement before the marriage takes place depends on regular contract principles: the court will try to determine the parties’ intent by reviewing the language and terms of agreement itself and the facts of the case. However, the agreement goes into effect once the parties are married; therefore, after the marriage, the premarital agreement can only be amended or revoked if both spouses sign the written amendment or revocation. Moreover, the amendment does not require “additional consideration,” meaning once you and your spouse sign the paperwork the amendment goes into effect immediately.
But what if you form a premarital agreement, break off your engagement, and then reconcile with your partner and get married? Does the former premarital agreement still stand? Actually, in North Carolina, such a prior premarital agreement has been upheld in court. See, e.g., Matter of Estate of Pate, 459 S.E.2d 1 (N.C. App. 1995). The court will look to the parties’ intent to decide whether or not to uphold the agreement as a legally binding contract, but many cases indicate that the court usually upholds these types of agreements.
Additionally, if you are happy with the terms of the premarital agreement but your spouse isn’t living up to his or her legal promises, one option is to ask the court to enforce the terms of the agreement. Since the premarital agreement is a valid contract, the court will likely uphold the agreement and order that your spouse conform to the terms and conditions set forth within your agreement.
For legal assistance with amending, revoking, or enforcing your existing premarital agreement, whether before or after your marriage, please do not hesitate to contact our office. Moreover, we are happy to assist you in crafting a premarital agreement of your own. You can find our contact information at www.rechlaw.com