Can I Contest A Prenuptial Agreement During Divorce In Wayne County?

If you entered into a prenuptial agreement, is there any way to challenge it during a divorce in Michigan?

Prenuptial agreements are often made to safeguard the money or property of one or both people getting married. However, if a couple has been married for many years, one partner might feel it’s not fair to stick strictly to what the agreement says. This raises the question: “If I get a divorce, do I have to follow the prenuptial agreement?” This blog aims to talk about some updates in Michigan’s legal decisions that could let you challenge a prenuptial agreement that would normally be accepted.

What is a prenuptial agreement?

A prenuptial agreement, often called a “prenup,” is a legal contract that a couple signs before getting married. This agreement outlines how their assets and income will be divided in case of a divorce or the death of one spouse. It typically includes details about the division of financial assets, property, and any debts.

Are prenups valid in Michigan?

Prenups are used to protect individual assets, support estate planning, clarify financial rights, and avoid potential disputes in the event of a divorce. They can be especially important in situations where one or both parties have significant assets, children from previous relationships, or are entering the marriage with substantial debt.

Are prenups valid or enforceable in Michigan?

For the most part, prenuptial agreements are valid in Michigan. There are some general requirements the agreement must meet, but if those conditions are satisfied, then the agreement is considered valid. For over 20 years, the law has held both parties to be bound by the conditions of a valid prenuptial agreement, essentially making both parties responsible for their own financial wellbeing.

However, there have been recent legal precedents set that have brought the issue of enforceability and validity of prenuptial agreements in Michigan divorce cases.

Are prenuptial agreements enforceable in Michigan?

We have discussed property division in Michigan divorces before, but in order to understand the most recent developments, a quick reminder is helpful. When a court is determining the division of property, the first responsibility is to determine whether property was ‘separate’ or ‘marital.’ Marital property is then divided equitably between the spouses and separate property remains the property of the spouse that it is assigned to.

Prenuptial agreements tend to take what would have otherwise been marital property and give it a designation of being the separate property of one spouse or the other.  In this way the property is protected from division in a divorce.

The two statutes referred to above require the court in some circumstances to invade the separate property of one spouse and award a portion of that property to the other spouse.  The first instance is where the spouse has contributed to the accumulation or management of that separate property.  The way in which a spouse can contribute to the property does not have to be direct, it can include indirect contributions to the management, retention or accumulation of the asset.  For instance, where one spouse directly owns and manages a small business while the other spouse indirectly contributes to it through home management and child rearing.  The other instance is where it appears that the property or alimony awarded to one spouse is insufficient for that spouse’s support and maintenance.

The issue that arises is how recent case law has indicated these statutes apply in situations where there is a prenuptial agreement.  The Michigan Supreme Court and the Michigan Court of Appeals has held that the separate property which the court may be required to invade according to these statutes includes property that is separate because of a prenuptial agreement.  This in turn means that even if the prenuptial agreement is valid, there are situations where the court may invade that separate property and award it to the other spouse despite the existence of a valid prenuptial agreement.  So it now appears that while the prenuptial agreement may be valid, it does not always mean that it will be fully enforced in the event of a divorce.

Divorces can get complicated, even in no-fault states like Michigan. Contact The Mitten Law Firm today for a free consultation on your divorce case.