When Is a Postnuptial Agreement Valid in Michigan?
- posted: Jan. 14, 2021
Many people are familiar with prenuptial agreements, which couples enter into before marriage to define their property rights. Similarly, a postnuptial agreement allows a married couple to specify how they will divide their property in the event one spouse dies or the couple gets a divorce. However, Michigan courts give postnuptial agreements greater scrutiny than prenups, which sometimes makes postnups harder to enforce.
A postnuptial agreement generally will not be upheld in Michigan if it violates the state’s public policy against encouraging separation or divorce. This will be found to occur if the postnup puts one spouse in a much more favorable economic position to abandon the marriage, leaving the other spouse with very little of the marital property. On the other hand, the Court of Appeals of Michigan has recognized that some postnuptial agreements may be intended to promote harmonious marital relations. An agreement that gives equitable treatment to both spouse’s property interests may be enforceable.
Note as well that married couples who are separated can negotiate an enforceable agreement governing property distribution and financial support when divorce or separate maintenance is “clearly imminent.”
For a postnuptial agreement to be valid in Michigan, it must meet these criteria:
- Full disclosure — As with a prenup, a couple entering into a postnuptial agreement must make a full and complete disclosure of their assets and debts. This way, both parties are fully informed of what the other person owns and what kind of financial liabilities they carry.
- Absence of fraud, mistake or coercion — Courts in Michigan won’t uphold a postnuptial agreement that was obtained through fraudulent means or mistake, such as one party misrepresenting facts or withholding material information. A postnup is also void if one spouse pressured the other to sign it.
- Opportunity for review and attorney advice — Each party must be given enough time to fully understand the contents of the postnup and the consequences of signing it. In addition, each spouse should have their own attorney review the agreement and negotiate any revisions.
- Overall fairness — A postnuptial agreement is not enforceable under Michigan law if it is unconscionable, meaning that it is unreasonably unfair to one party or otherwise violates public policy. A postnup that causes one spouse to forfeit a sizable share of their property rights upon divorce could be found unenforceable on this basis.
Keep in mind that even if a postnuptial agreement meets these criteria, it may be outweighed by other factors in the equitable distribution process. Property that is separately owned by one spouse can still be divided by the court to reward the other spouse for their contributions to the marriage or to ensure that the nonowner spouse is not left destitute.
At Shatzman & Shatzman, our attorneys assist individuals and families throughout Shelby Township and Chesterfield Township in a full range of Michigan divorce and family law matters. To discuss your case, contact us online or call us at 586-800-3018.