About half of the states in the U.S. have enacted the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act (UPAA). It’s a consistent but state-by-state law intended to help you draft a prenuptial agreement and feel surer it will be valid if you ever need it, even in another state.

Partly because we haven’t signed on to the UPAA, Pennsylvanians need to be especially thoughtful in drafting one of these rarely romantic but often wise contracts.

Why sign a written contact?

In a way, the point of signing any contract is its enforceability. Whether a court will really need to enforce it or not may matter less than all parties signing the contract understanding that they’re bound to its provisions.

The wedding vows ordinarily cannot be enforced by a judge, as much as many would like them to be, but a properly drafted prenuptial agreement can carry the force of law. So, what can get in the way of a prenup being enforceable?

Tests of a prenup’s enforceability

First, both spouses must enter into the agreement voluntarily and free of coercion. The drama and complications of relationships can prove to be an obstacle to enforceability more often than some might imagine.

Also, the prenuptial agreement cannot be “unconscionable.” Some may find all prenups “unconscionable” in the everyday sense. In the legal sense, unconscionable means unreasonably unfair or oppressive to one party, or just plain offensive to public policy.

An invalid prenup can be unconscionable because one spouse wasn’t honest about the assets they own or their debts, so the other spouse didn’t fully understand what they were signing. If your future spouse has a billion dollars, you’d like to know before you decide to sign a prenup. If you want, you can waive your right to know about your future spouse’s finances (again, voluntarily and free of coercion).

Prenups in Pennsylvania can address a wide variety of valid and reasonable subjects.

They generally involve sharing of property, alimony, death benefits, business inheritance and business management, spending or selling assets during the marriage, etc. In Pennsylvania, child support and custody, as well as the religion in which a child will be raised, are not legally enforceable subjects for a prenup.