The Basics of How Texas Courts Treat Prenuptial Agreements

Prenuptial agreements – also referred to as “premarital agreements” in Texas – are a curious thing in the context of marriage. On the one hand, many people insist that these agreements are necessary to ensure that no spouse is unfairly impacted by a divorce. On the other hand, prenuptial agreements are not exactly the most romantic things, and in some ways seem incongruous with the general purpose of marriage to begin with. The best approach is likely to be somewhere in the middle: use prenups when necessary, but they may not always be necessary. Texas is a community property state, which has a decisive role in property division in divorces without a prenuptial agreement. If a couple feels that this default position is fine, then perhaps a prenup is simply not necessary.

In this post, we’d like to give a basic overview of how courts treat prenuptial agreements. Most readers have at least a general idea of how these agreements work. A prenuptial agreement is a contract which predetermines things such as property division, asset protection, inheritance, debt responsibility, and so forth. But how do courts treat these agreements? Let’s discuss in a bit of detail.

Texas Courts Apply Basic Contract Law Principles to Agreements

Chapter 4 of Subtitle (1)(B) within the Texas Family Code deals with both premarital and marital property agreements. This is where we can find the specific rules which govern prenuptial agreements. When it comes to the enforcement of these agreements, if we look at the code, we can see that Texas courts apply many of the basic principles of contract law. This means, for instance, that prenuptial agreements must be entered into voluntarily in order to be upheld. This is taken right from basic contract law which states that there must be a valid “acceptance” to create a contract.

In addition, Texas courts will also examine a prenuptial agreement to determine whether it is “unconscionable.” Unconscionability is an established concept in contract law. Under other circumstances, unconscionability basically relates to the idea on unequal bargaining power between the parties, but in the context of prenuptial agreements the State of Texas has produced a special list of items which reflect unconscionability. Essentially, a prenup will not be enforced if the court determines that one party was not dealt with fairly. In this context, fairness relates to things such as accurate disclosures regarding the property or financial obligations of one party.

Treatment of Amendments & Revocations

In addition to these principles, the Texas Family Code also has special provisions for certain aspects of prenuptial agreements. These provisions are definitely things that a married couple contemplating a prenup should be aware of. For instance, both amendments and revocations to an existing prenuptial agreement can be enforceable, but the amendments or revocations must be placed in writing and signed by both parties. If only one party signs, then you won’t have an enforceable amendment or revocation. This requirement also applies to the original prenuptial contract as well: to be valid, the contract must be signed by both parties.

Contact The Ramage Law Group for Additional Information

There is much more to say about prenuptial agreements in Texas. The Family Code also has rules regarding what can and cannot be contracted for in prenuptial agreements; we may return to explore that topic in detail in the near future. For now, if you’d like to learn more, or you want to move forward with drafting an agreement, contact The Ramage Law Group for additional information by calling 469-899-3533.