The Basics of Postnuptial Agreements in Michigan

The concept of the prenuptial agreement is nothing new. In fact, scholars have found evidence of prenuptial agreements dating back as far as ancient Egypt, which means such agreements have been in the works for thousands of years. Whether parents were looking to protect their daughters from destitution in the event of the death of a husband, or wealthy elites wanted to protect their fortunes against gold-diggers, prenups were the way to ensure that the rights of either party (or both) were legally protected before the couple said “I do”.

More recently, postnuptial agreements have surfaced, gaining popularity only in the second half of the 20th century, ostensibly in the wake of rising divorce rates. These agreements, primarily concerning the property rights of spouses in the event of divorce, are entered into after the marriage vows have been spoken, and initially, they were often rejected by courts because of the preexisting legal contract of marriage. Today, however, they may be valid if they meet specific criteria. Here’s what you should know about postnuptial agreements in Michigan.

Fraud
In Michigan, there are certain requirements that must be upheld in order for a postnuptial agreement to be considered enforceable. The first condition is that the agreement cannot be obtained by fraudulent means, including as a mistake, through duress, or under misrepresentation or non-disclosure of material facts.

In other words, if one spouse lies to another about the contents of the agreement, gets the other person to sign a document without knowing it is a postnuptial agreement, or somehow forces the other person to sign through coercion or threats, the courts will not hold the agreement as valid and enforceable.

Fairness
If you inherit a lot of money from your family or you earn a tidy sum through professional pursuits or investments, and you don’t want to split it with your spouse in the event of divorce, you might feel well within your rights to ask for a postnuptial agreement that outlines the division of marital assets. The only problem here is that a postnuptial agreement that is grossly unfair, or unconscionable, in the eyes of the court may not be enforceable, even if your spouse agreed at the time.

Circumstances
Suppose you enter into a postnuptial agreement with your spouse when neither of you has two nickels to rub together. Then suppose that your business takes off and your earnings go through the roof. Then your marriage ends in divorce.

By the terms of your agreement, you might be entitled to retain all of your earnings, while your spouse gets nothing but the pittance he or she earned during your marriage.

Because your circumstances have changed so dramatically from when the agreement was made, the court may choose not to enforce it.

You should also know that suspicious timing will earn greater scrutiny, as with postnuptial agreements that are entered into during a separation but before a divorce. It’s easy to see why courts might suspect coercion or other fraud in such cases.

If you have questions concerning postnuptial agreements in Michigan, contact the qualified attorneys at The Gucciardo Law Firm at 248-723-5190 today.

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