Prenuptial Agreements

A prenuptial agreement, or prenup, is a legal and binding contract, entered into by two consenting adults prior to a legal marriage. Typically, a prenup is intended to protect the assets of one or both spouses in the event of divorce, ostensibly determining financial issues like division of property and alimony in advance. People often include a variety of other stipulations in prenuptial agreements, but some issues (like child custody and child support) cannot be legally determined by a prenup, no matter what spouses agree to at the time the contract is signed.

Although both spouses must agree to and sign a prenup before a legal marriage takes place, it’s not uncommon for one spouse to feel cheated when a divorce occurs and he/she must live with an arrangement made prior to marriage. In this case, a spouse may choose to contest provisions of a prenuptial agreement, or the validity of the prenup in general.

How does this work with a prenuptial agreement in Michigan? Is it possible to contest a prenup later on? Are there instances in which a prenup is not enforceable? If you are going through a divorce and you feel that the Michigan prenuptial agreement your signed is not valid, here are a few things you should know about fighting it.

Validity of a Prenuptial Agreement Michigan

Modern prenups are generally designed to be virtually ironclad, and therefore tend to include a variety of boilerplate provisions that make them very difficult to contest later on. For example, most prenups these days include language to the effect that each party has read the agreement in full prior to signing and understands it, as well as an acknowledgement that each party had their own legal counsel or that they had the right to legal counsel, but waived it.

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This type of language speaks to the personal responsibility of consenting adults when entering into a contract. If an adult is unwise enough to waive the right to a lawyer and sign a prenuptial agreement in Michigan without reading or understanding the contents, he/she cannot later claim that the contract is unfair and have it declared null and void.

It’s important to understand that Michigan courts are prone to uphold the rights of adults to enter into, and be bound by, contracts. However, just because you have foolishly signed an unfavorable Michigan prenuptial agreement doesn’t necessarily mean you are out of luck. There are circumstances in which such agreements may be deemed unenforceable.

When is a Michigan Prenuptial Agreement Unenforceable?

There are several reasons why part or all of a prenup may be deemed unenforceable, although the decision ultimately relies on a ruling of the court, sometimes based on precedent from prior cases. The reasons for a prenup being unenforceable are basically as follows:
– It was obtained through fraud, duress, mistake, or misrepresentation or nondisclosure of material facts
– It was unconscionable when executed, and/or
– The facts and circumstances have materially changed since the agreement was executed, to the point enforcing it is considered unfair and unreasonable

If one party is found to have lied about, misrepresented, or failed to disclose material facts in the prenuptial agreement (such as assets), some or all of the prenup could be found unenforceable. The same is true if one party was coerced into signing against his/her will, such as under threat. That said, the threat must be significant – a court generally won’t invalidate a prenup because your spouse threatened to end the relationship and cancel the wedding if you didn’t sign the prenup, for example.

Prenups may also be found unenforceable if the terms are considered unconscionable, insomuch as they are unfairly weighted to favor one party. If, for example, a prenup causes one spouse to give up alimony and marital assets that he/she would have normally been eligible for under state law, it could be deemed unconscionable, and therefore unenforceable.

Finally, there are cases in which the prenup may be found unenforceable if circumstances have changed so much since the prenup was signed that enforcing it is unfair and unreasonable, such as if one spouse’s assets have grown beyond what could have potentially been foreseen at the outset.

Even though it is not impossible to invalidate part or all of a prenuptial agreement, it is by no means easy. The best thing adults can do is hire qualified legal representation prior to signing a prenup, to make sure that their individual interests are protected, or simply refuse to sign a prenup they feel is unfair.

In lieu of this, hiring an experienced lawyer to fight a prenup is the best way to go about convincing a court it is invalid and unenforceable. Just understand that even a stellar lawyer may not be able to undo the terms you agreed to if the prenup is well-crafted and you have no legal grounds for contesting it.