November 27, 2015 | Share
Enforcement Issues: When Spouses Break Agreements
While entering into a formal, written agreement with your spouse or spouse-to-be may seem unnecessary at first blush, there are actually several important reasons why it may make sense to have a discussion with your partner about signing on the dotted line. There are many different types of agreements that can be used under different circumstances, but some of the most common are:
- Prenuptial agreements
- Postnuptial agreements
- Agreements concerning ownership and operation of family businesses
The point of signing each of these agreements is to set expectations up front and attempt to avoid unnecessary, costly disputes down the road. But, what happens when something goes wrong?
When Your Spouse Breaches Your Agreement
While contracts establish legal rights and tell people what they are supposed to do, they cannot prevent someone from going outside of the parties’ agreement. For example, a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement may say that you are entitled to full ownership of an asset that would otherwise be considered community property, but if your spouse decides to take that asset, sell it and then spend the proceeds, your signed piece of paper isn’t going to stand in the way. Similarly, if your shareholder agreement prohibits selling out and your spouse has papers drawn up to sell his or her stake in the family business, your agreement alone can’t physically prevent your spouse from trying to tear the business apart.
However, what your agreement does do (assuming that it has been drafted effectively) is give you the legal right to fight to prevent, rescind or seek compensation for your spouse’s breach in court. In addition, these types of agreements will often contain provisions for use of alternative dispute resolution – such as mediation or arbitration – which may allow for a more cost-effective (and less public) means of resolution. If your spouse is intentionally breaching his or her obligations, certain practical considerations may come into play as well.
You Need to Take Action as Soon as Possible
In order to enforce your contractual rights and protect your legal interests, the best thing you can do is to take action as soon as possible. Ideally, you will find out about your spouse’s plans before they get carried out, and in such cases, you may be able to seek a court order for an injunction preventing the prohibited activity. Violating a court order carries significant penalties; so an injunction can be a strong deterrent to breaking the terms of a contract.
Even if it is too late for the injunction, it is still not too late to go to court. In fact, at this point, going to court may be your only option for enforcing your rights. In most cases, the sooner you act, the better your chances will be to obtain a favorable and cost-effective outcome.
Contact an Attorney at Nordhaus Walpole PLLC for More Information
At Nordhaus Walpole PLLC, we provide experienced and aggressive legal representation for individuals seeking to enforce agreements entered into in both marriage and divorce. If you would like to speak with a McKinney divorce attorney about your situation, call our law offices at (214) 726-1450 or request a free initial consultation today.
Categories: Family Law & Divorce