One of the most important decisions in a person’s life is to enter into a marriage. Marriage is not only an important step in a person’s social and personal life. It also carries significant legal implications. Even when confident in their decision to marry, a couple may want to define their rights and duties in the event of a separation. At Melissa Pearce & Associates, our Michigan family lawyers have counseled many clients through the decisions regarding prenuptial and postnuptial agreements.
Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements are legal contracts between spouses. Prenuptial agreements are executed before the marriage, while postnuptial agreements are executed after the marriage. These contracts can cover a substantial range of topics, but they usually focus on determining how assets will be divided if the couple decides to divorce or separate. Some common issues an agreement may cover include:
Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements in Michigan cannot predetermine issues of custody, support, or parenting time for children. Michigan prioritizes the best interests of the child at the time of the divorce or separation, which cannot be anticipated.
Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements can be appropriate in any number of circumstances. If done correctly, they may help reduce the time, expense, and stress of a divorce. They may be especially important in a few specific situations, including:
Sharing personal finances under a marriage is commonplace. A spouse may have significant personal or family assets before the marriage. They then may want to protect those assets in the event of a divorce or separation. For example, one spouse maintains a family business, handed down for generations. A prenuptial or postnuptial agreement may help guarantee that the business remains in the family after a divorce.
Marriage has a significant impact on the spouses’ respective estates. When a spouse remarries, they may want to ensure that their children receive a fair portion of their estate. A prenuptial or postnuptial agreement may help preemptively settle issues of asset distribution upon the death of one spouse.
Though these agreements can be extremely helpful when they are done right, they may prove useless when attention to detail is not sufficient. Under Michigan law, nuptial agreements are often held unenforceable if they are incorrectly drafted or executed. Although there are numerous “do-it-yourself” tools, the best way to ensure your agreement will be enforceable is to work with an experienced Michigan family lawyer to draft and review your document. An agreement may be unenforceable if it involves:
Certain terms of the agreement may be unenforceable as well, such as a clause that tries to determine child custody in advance. As mentioned above, Michigan law does not allow for this.
Finally, a court may not enforce the agreement if the circumstances in the marriage have changed significantly since the time of execution. For example, if a wife had a higher salary than her husband at the time of the marriage, they may have decided that she would owe him spousal support if they decided to get divorced. However, if after the agreement was signed, the husband received a large inheritance or gift from a family member, he may no longer require spousal support from his wife. The court has significant discretion in enforcing pre- and postnuptial agreements.
We have counseled many clients on whether a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement is right for them, and we know which common pitfalls to look out for. Are attorneys are ready and willing to work with you and your fiancé(e) or spouse to negotiate an equitable pre- or postnuptial agreement. We believe in working cooperatively with our clients to understand their unique circumstances and reach an agreement that makes sense for everybody involved. If you and your fiancé(e) or spouse are considering a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, reach out to us today to schedule a pre-engagement meeting. We would welcome the opportunity to sit down with you to understand your goals, desires, and needs, and ultimately reach an agreement everybody is happy with.