Prenuptial agreements provide a couple with the freedom to control the division of property in the event the marriage ends in divorce. Because these contracts can lead to vastly different property awards than would occur under state law, courts must make sure that both spouses agree to the terms voluntarily -- and that there is no evidence of fraud or duress.
By law, prenuptial agreements must be executed prior to marriage. However, the exact timing of the presentation and the signing of the document are important factors in determining whether the parties voluntarily agreed to its terms. Generally, courts look suspiciously upon agreements that are executed far into the planning stages of a wedding, such as the night before the ceremony. This is based on the principle that a spouse might feel pressured to agree to a prenup rather than risk disrupting the wedding plans by taking time to consider its ramifications. For this reason, couples often choose to handle prenups along with other financial matters months in advance. This gives both spouses time to review the terms and seek legal counsel if necessary.