Randy Lee Remillard got married for all the right reasons, at least according to his tax guy. Randy married — and had his bride-to-be sign a prenuptial agreement on December 29, 2014 before the December 30 wedding — because his accountant told Randy of substantial tax savings if he married and filed jointly rather than separately. You may think Randy is not a fine, upstanding Virginian. We are not here to judge; the Virginia Appellate Court did that, finding Randy’s prenuptial agreement was unconscionable.

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What Does a Prenup Do?

Prenuptial (prenup) and postnuptial (postnup) agreements bridge Virginia contract law and family law. Married couples can enter into contracts to preserve, insist on, or avoid issues:

  • Preserve and retain assets gained separately before the marriage
  • Insist on behaviors by each party to the marriage
  • Avoid nasty contested divorce, should the marriage fall apart

All of these and more issues are regulated by Code of Virginia § 20-150, one section of the Code’s Title 20: Chapter 8, Premarital Agreement Act.

Since any written agreement between parties in a marriage is a contract, it bears the legal weight of any contract. Contract law appears hundreds of times throughout the Code. A prenuptial agreement can be legally voided using contract law.

But a prenuptial agreement is also part of marital law, an entirely different section of the Code.

Virginia Code and Premarital Agreements

Title 20 of the Code of Virginia regulates marriage, separation, annulment, and divorce. Chapter 8 of Title 20 regulates premarital agreements, also called prenups. It spells out how to create them and how to break them.

Amazingly (given the pleasure legislators take in cranking out volumes of words in their laws), Chapter 8 only has nine sections. The first three sections have no more than three sentences each! (Honestly, that must be some kind of record for legislative brevity.) 

When you read § 20-151, you uncover the ways a prenuptial agreement can be voided. Since this goes to the heart of this article’s topic, we offer the text in full:

  1. A premarital agreement is not enforceable if the person against whom enforcement is sought proves that:
  2. That person did not execute the agreement voluntarily; or
  3. The agreement was unconscionable when it was executed and, before execution of the agreement, that person (i) was not provided a fair and reasonable disclosure of the property or financial obligations of the other party; and (ii) did not voluntarily and expressly waive, in writing, any right to disclosure of the property or financial obligations of the other party beyond the disclosure provided.
  4. Any issue of unconscionability of a premarital agreement shall be decided by the court as a matter of law. Recitations in the agreement shall create a prima facie presumption that they are factually correct.
  5. If a marriage is determined to be void, an agreement that would otherwise have been a premarital agreement shall be enforceable only to the extent necessary to avoid an inequitable result.

This section of Virginia law offers the two reasons you can legally break a prenuptial (or postnuptial) agreement:

  1. Coercion — One party is forced by the other party to sign the agreement
  2. Unconscionable — The agreement is not right, reasonable, fair, or just


Coercion (or duress) is the first of two reasons a prenup can be set aside or voided. Coercion is extremely hard to prove in court.

As a spouse, what evidence can you present that your spouse forced you to sign the prenup? Does video exist? Did you happen to record audio on your cell phone? Were witnesses ringing you with baseball bats in their hands, and will they testify?

Coercion has a legal definition, laid out in 18 U.S. Code § 1591:

The term “coercion” means —

  1. threats of serious harm to or physical restraint against any person;
  2. any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause a person to believe that failure to perform an act would result in serious harm to or physical restraint against any person; or
  3. the abuse or threatened abuse of law or the legal process.

Coercion is a matter of degrees. Suppose you and your spouse sign a prenup and then later you realize the terms are not quite as good as they could be. That is not coercion or duress. That is just you missing out on a better opportunity.

Lacking eyewitnesses or records of a spouse intimidating and restraining you until you sign a prenup, your better avenue for challenging it is claiming the agreement is unconscionable.


In the case of Remillard v. Remillard (2022), the Appellate Court found that Randy hid assets — $10 million — from his bride-to-be. On the day before her 2014 marriage he told her to sign the prenuptial agreement or he would not marry her.

She signed, later discovered Randy was a scumbag had hidden assets from her, and filed for divorce in 2019.

As part of her divorce filing, she asked the court to set aside the prenup agreement. The Circuit Court and Appellate Court found in favor of the wife, not the scumbag Randy.

You can challenge a prenup before, during, and after a divorce. It is a contract at heart, and all contracts must be conscionable; that is, they must be fair, just, right, and reasonable.

For a contract to be unconscionable — to have the quality of unconscionability — it must:

  • Be unfair or oppressive to one party in a way that suggests abuses during its formation
  • Include unfair bargaining and unfair substantive terms
  • Display an absence of meaningful choice by the disadvantaged party

Prenups with potential “Trojan Horse” clauses could touch on anything, even things a potential spouse never considered:

  • Intellectual property rights for that amazing novel that still only sits inside one spouse’s head
  • Retirement funds for jobs neither spouse has
  • Property division including possible future real estate purchases
  • Investment accounts for a couple still clipping coupons
  • Child custody for kids the couple has not yet created
  • Spousal support using projections of wealth the couple cannot even dream of

Always consult with an experienced family law attorney before signing any prenup or postnup. Your lawyer knows to look out for future traps, for a spouse playing the long game.


When you meet with a family law attorney, bring your prenup with you. The separation and divorce proceedings can include a motion to set aside the prenup on the grounds it is unconscionable.

You can prove a prenup is unconscionable by presenting documents showing your spouse:

  • Hid assets
  • Made unreasonable demands — weighing the same weight for 20+ years, for example
  • Masked reputational issues — a criminal background, incarceration, aliases and the like
  • Failed to disclose significant debts
  • Issued one-sided ultimatums — you have to do everything and your spouse is not accountable for anything
  • Compels you to be impoverished or homeless if you file for divorce

A challenge to the prenup rolled into the divorce motion is efficient and cost effective. Once the court sets the prenup aside, all other pieces can fall into place equitably:

  1. Property settlement
  2. Spousal support
  3. Child custody
  4. Child support
  5. Parenting time

But What About Celebrities?

Jeannie Mai Jenkins (host of “The Real”) has asked a court to set aside her prenup with rapper husband Jeezy as part of her contested divorce. She claims she only had five days to review the prenup he offered before their 2021 wedding. She cites the lack of “full and fair disclosure” of Jeezy’s assets, meaning the prenup was unconscionable.

What a court finds unconscionable may not be the same as what a couple finds unfair. Hollywood celebrities like Jeannie Mai are famous (or infamous) for signing prenups with bizarre clauses. These are generally upheld by the courts owing to the peculiar business of celebrities:

  • Brad Pitt agreed to an adultery clause in the prenup Pitt and Angelina Jolie signed before their 2014 wedding; if he fooled around, Angelina got full custody of their six children.
  • Beyoncé receives $5 million from hubby Jay Z for every child she bears and scoops up $1 million for each year they stay married.
  • Ice-T supposedly is entitled to wife Coco Austin’s breast and buttock implants should they split.

With celebrities flanked by phalanxes of attorneys, most judges will not intercede to sunder the prenup. They had legal help and their work makes such prenups enforceable.

Fighting an Unfair Prenup

For the vast majority of Virginians who are not celebrities, a prenup agreement can be overturned only with adequate legal representation. Judges are loath to break contracts, especially marital agreements signed in accordance with Code of Virginia § 20-155. But if your attorney can demonstrate either coercion or unconscionability, you can remove the obstacle of a prenup as part of your divorce.

The first step in fighting an unfair prenup is engaging a good family law attorney (not a contract lawyer). The Firm For Men is ready to take your case, all the way from separation through final divorce decree. We can help with prenups, postnups, and more. Contact our office online or call us today at (757) 383-9184.