When Can You Successfully Challenge a Prenup?

Prenuptial agreements are a necessity among couples with substantial assets looking to protect their interests in the event of a divorce. Just look at Britney Spears and Sam Asghari's recent divorce. Due to a well-devised prenuptial agreement, the split went off without a hitch.

But tabloid rumors suggest there was a moment when Asghari considered challenging the prenup. Could he have succeeded?

No Spousal Support: Britney Spears Sam Asghari Prenup

Spears and Asghari reached a divorce settlement on May 3, 2024, nine months after filing. According to reports, the settlement adhered to the terms of the prenuptial agreement, and neither Asghari nor Spears will receive spousal support.

As the Petitioner, Asghari reportedly filed for divorce from Spears in August 2023 because he believed that Britney was cheating on him with a member of their house staff. In light of this, it was rumored that Asghari planned to challenge the prenuptial agreement and seek financial support.

Prenuptial agreements, like any contract, are not immune to legal challenges. In celebrity cases, especially those involving substantial wealth and assets, there is often a desire to contest the prenup.

In 2021, Brandon Blackstock sought to overturn the prenuptial agreement with Kelly Clarkson during their divorce proceedings. He argued that assets acquired during their marriage should be considered joint possessions and thus subject to division.

However, the court ultimately upheld the prenup, ruling that properties purchased with Clarkson's own money and titled solely in her name were not part of the marital estate. In the case of Spears and Asghari, the fact that Asghari was the Petitioner in the divorce proceedings may have impacted the validity of the prenuptial agreement if an infidelity clause had been included.

But, even if the prenup did contain an infidelity clause ensuring financial consequences for the cheater, it is unlikely that Asghari would be able to recover a significant portion of Spears' assets without evidence to prove that the contract was signed under duress or coercion, or that the terms of the prenup were unconscionable, obtained fraudulently, or otherwise invalid.

Legal Grounds to Challenge a Prenup

While prenuptial agreements are typically upheld in court, there are instances where they can be successfully challenged. In New York, there are several reasons why a prenup may be deemed invalid or unenforceable.

Signing Issues

Like any contract, signing issues can render a prenuptial agreement unenforceable. Verbal agreements hold no weight in court, and both parties must have signed a document before getting married.

One common way to challenge a prenup is by arguing that it was signed under duress or coercion. For example, if one party was pressured into signing the agreement without fully understanding its implications, a court may consider the agreement to be invalid. Likewise, if one party was forced or pressured into signing the prenup, it may be deemed invalid.

Fraud or Misrepresentation

Another potential ground for challenging a prenup is fraud or misrepresentation. If one party can prove that the other party intentionally misled them about their finances or assets, the court may choose to invalidate the agreement.

Illegal Clauses

Another valid reason to challenge a prenuptial agreement is the inclusion of illegal clauses. The agreement cannot include provisions for child support, child custody, or alimony, as the court typically decides these issues in the event of a divorce. Your prenup may be deemed invalid if it contains any of these clauses.

Unconscionable Terms

Overly one-sided or biased terms may not hold water in a prenuptial agreement. For example, if one party is left in a significantly worse financial position as a result of the prenup, it may be deemed unfair and unenforceable.

Nonfinancial Issues

Furthermore, prenuptial agreements are only valid if they pertain to financial issues. Any nonfinancial issues included in the agreement are often deemed irrelevant and will not hold up in court. If your prenup touches on matters outside of finances, such as personal behavior or household chores, it may be subject to challenge.

Inaccurate Information

Another reason to challenge a prenuptial agreement is if it is based on inaccurate or incomplete information. Both parties are required to fully disclose all of their assets and debts before signing a prenup. Provide all relevant information to ensure the agreement is valid.

Lack of Legal Counsel

Finally, a lack of legal counsel can also provide grounds for challenging a prenuptial agreement. Each party must have an independent attorney present during the signing process. If only one party has legal representation, the court may find the agreement unfair and thereby unenforceable.

Challenging a prenuptial agreement can be a lengthy and complex legal process. In general, courts tend to uphold prenups as long as they were entered into voluntarily by both parties, with full disclosure of assets, and with the opportunity for both parties to seek independent legal counsel.

If you believe that your prenup may be invalid or unenforceable due to signing issues, misrepresentation, or other issues, be sure to consult with an experienced New York prenuptial agreement attorney to determine the best course of action.

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Karen Rosenthal

Karen B. Rosenthal is a partner and co-founder at matrimonial litigation firm Bikel Rosenthal & Schanfield LLP, where she brings 30 years of matrimonial law experience to bear in matters involving high-net-worth equitable distribution, contentious custody battles, and other high-stakes disputes. Certified as an Attorney for the Child and a frequent speaker on topics related to children going through high-conflict divorce, she has been recognized as a leading New York lawyer by Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers, and New York magazine.

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