Enforcing a Prenuptial Agreement During a Divorce

When you make plans to get married and enter into a prenuptial agreement (MCL § 557.28), you are probably anticipating that the terms of that prenuptial agreement will be upheld in the event of a divorce. While many Michigan residents assume that prenups, or marital agreements, are only for wealthy individuals with significant assets, in fact almost anyone getting married in the state could benefit from entering into a prenuptial agreement or at least contemplating its benefits with a Michigan divorce lawyer. For example, through a prenuptial agreement, soon-to-be spouses can agree to certain property settlement terms, as well as to terms of spousal maintenance in the event of divorce. It is important to underscore that spouses never can enter into a contract that reduces or eradicates child support.

Given that prenuptial agreements can have such a substantial impact on future divorce proceedings, how can you ensure that your prenuptial agreement is enforceable? Last year, a Michigan court case revised the legal landscape for prenuptial agreements, and it is important to understand more about how to create an enforceable contract in case of a divorce.

Michigan Law on Prenuptial Agreements

Under the Michigan statutory law cited above, a prenuptial agreement is defined as "a contract relating to property made between persons in contemplation of marriage." Prenups in the state, according to the statutory law, generally are enforceable as long as the following are true:

  • Agreement between the parties is fair;

  • Parties entered into the prenuptial agreement voluntarily;

  • Parties entered into the contract with a full understanding of the other's assets; and

  • Parties had a full understanding of the terms of the contract and their implications.

Subsequent case law has clarified required elements for a prenuptial agreement to be enforceable. For instance, under Rinvelt v. Rinvelt (1991), the Michigan Court of Appeals clarified that all of the following elements are necessary to enforce a prenup:

  • Agreement is fair and reasonable under the circumstances;

  • Agreement is free from fraud, lack of consent, mental incapacity, or undue influence;

  • Agreement was not unconscionable; and

  • The facts and circumstances of the case have not changed since the agreement was executed, thereby making its enforcement unfair and unreasonable.

Recent Case Law Addressing Michigan Prenuptial Agreements

In the recent Michigan Court of Appeals case of Allard v. Allard (2017), the court made a ruling that suggested prenuptial agreements may not be as enforceable as some parties previously believed. More specifically, the court determined that, in some cases, one spouse's separate property can be invaded in a divorce.

First, it may be invaded to provide for the other spouse if the marital property is insufficient to provide for the spouse's support. Second, separate property may be distributable in situations where the other spouse contributed to the acquisition, improvement, or accumulation of that property. Both of these are statutory rights that a court may consider.

Seek Advice from a Michigan Divorce Lawyer

If you have questions about enforcing a prenuptial agreement in your divorce, a Michigan divorce attorney can help. Contact the Law Offices of Michael A. Robbins today.