Texas Appeals Court Concludes Parties’ Premarital Agreement Is Enforceable without a Signed Copy

In some situations, a Texas premarital agreement can be used to protect the parties’ assets.  To be valid, a premarital agreement must be signed by both parties.  A wife recently challenged a trial court’s finding there was no enforceable agreement when neither party was able to produce a signed copy of the agreement.

Premarital Agreement

The appeals court’s opinion stated parties started their relationship around six months before the marriage.  The wife raised the issue of premarital agreement a month or two before the wedding.  The wife signed in front of the notary, but the notary refused to notarize the husband’s copy because he signed it before he arrived at the store and did not have his ID with him.

The wife testified she forgot what she did with the signed copies.  She said she thought she had an electronic copy on the husband’s computer, but he had taken the computer.

The wife had served the husband with requests for admissions during pre-trial discovery.  In his responses, the husband admitted he signed a premarital agreement, that the wife signed the same premarital agreement, that he took it to be notarized the day before the wedding, and that the wife was with him when he signed it.  He also admitted the agreement he signed “provided a fair and reasonably disclosure of the property and financial obligations of [the wife].”  Additionally, he admitted  the agreement the wife attached to the request for admissions was the agreement he signed.

The trial court admitted into evidence what the wife claimed was “an unsigned copy of the final version” of the agreement that the attorneys sent them for signature.  It was the same agreement attached to her request for admissions.

The husband testified that was not the one he signed.  He said she hired a separate attorney for him and the attorney advised him that the agreement the wife’s attorney drafted did not protect him. His attorney sent him a different version, and that is what he signed.  He said that version was to be sent to the wife’s attorney.  He said the wife had not disclosed her complete assets to him.

The husband testified the wife offered to pay off his family debts.  He said he did not need her to pay the debts immediately because the family was on payment plans, but she convinced him they could pay the debts and go ahead and get married.  He said he “hesitantly” accepted the money.

In its letter ruling, the trial court included a finding that “the parties did NOT have an enforceable pre-marital agreement. . .” The final decree acknowledged that the parties had agreed to the disposition of some of the property, and awarded the wife $15,005.18 of the “community cash proceeds” in an escrow account.  It awarded the husband the other $259,069 from the escrow account and all of the funds in three community bank accounts.  It also ordered each party to pay certain community debts.


The wife appealed, arguing the trial court erred in concluding the parties did not have an enforceable premarital agreement.

A party can challenge the enforceability of a premarital agreement by showing they did not voluntarily sign it, or that it was unconscionable when they signed it and they were not given a fair and reasonable disclosure of the other party’s property or financial obligations, did not waive the right to disclosure voluntarily, expressly, and in writing, and did not have or reasonably could not have had adequate knowledge of the other party’s property or financial obligations.  Tex. Fam. Code 4.006(a).

The wife pointed to the husband’s response to her request for admissions, in which he admitted both parties signed the premarital agreement attached to the request.  She also pointed to her own testimony that the attached document was an unsigned copy of the agreement she signed.

A response to a request for admissions is conclusively established as to the admitting party unless the court allows them to amend or withdraw it.  Otherwise, the admission is a judicial admission that cannot be controverted by testimony. The husband did not try to withdraw or amend his admission. The husband’s admission he signed the premarital agreement and the wife’s testimony together conclusively proved the premarital agreement existed.

The only two defenses to a premarital agreement listed in the Texas Family Code are involuntary execution and unconscionability.  The husband agreed in the premarital agreement that he voluntarily entered into it after receiving legal advice and that it “was not procured by fraud, duress, or overreaching.” There was no contrary evidence at trial.  The appeals court concluded that the undisputed evidence showed the husband voluntarily executed the agreement.

The husband did not raise unconscionability in his pleading or at trial.  The appeals court noted, however, that he would have to show that it was unconscionable when he signed it, that he was not given a fair and reasonable disclosure of the wife’s property or financial obligations, had not waived the right to such disclosure voluntarily, expressly, and in writing, and did not have or reasonably could not have had adequate knowledge of the wife’s property or financial obligations.

Property Division

The wife also argued that the trial court erred in treating all of the assets as community property.  The premarital agreement identified property that was intended to remain separate.  There was evidence the wife had made down payments on property acquired during the marriage using funds from her separate property.  The proceeds from the sale of that property was in the escrow account, which the trial court had primarily awarded to the husband.

The appeals court concluded the trial court had not properly characterized the separate and community property because it did not apply the premarital agreement.  The appeals court therefore reversed the decree and remanded the case for a just and right property division.

Contact a Skilled Texas Premarital Agreement Lawyer

In this case, the appeals court concluded the existence of a premarital agreement based on the husband’s responses to a pretrial discovery request.  If you signed a premarital, it is important to consult with an experienced Texas premarital agreement attorney agreement promptly if you or your spouse are considering divorce.  Contact McClure Law Group at 214.692.8200 for a consultation.

Contact Information