In part one of this series on prenuptial agreements (an agreement made by a couple before they marry concerning their assets and support should they divorce), we discussed the seminal case law on prenuptial agreements in Michigan.
In this article, we will explore in more detail the standards of enforceability of prenuptial agreements in Michigan.
Under most circumstances, a prenuptial agreement is enforceable under Michigan law. An exception exists if a spouse is left with nothing, in such an instant a court may invade the separate property of the other spouse.
I. Requirements to enforce a prenuptial agreement in Michigan.
In order for a prenuptial agreement to be enforced in Michigan it must be / have:
- Voluntariness. Was the agreement obtained through fraud, duress, mistake, misrepresentsation or nondisclosure of a material fact?
- Unconsionablity. Was the agreement unconscionable when executed?
- Change in circumstances. Have the facts and circumstances changed since the agreement was executed, so as to make its enforcement unfair and unreasonable?
II. Vouluntariness and prenuptial agreements in Michigan.
a. Lizzio v. Lizzio
The Michigan Court of Appeals addressed the voluntariness requirement in the case of Lizzio v. Lizzio. In Lizzio, the basic issue on appeal is whether the trial court erred in enforcing an antenuptial agreement (prenuptial agreement) with regard to property division. The parties married in 1975, prior to marriage, the each singed a prenuptial agreement that provided for each party’s property to be his/her separate property in the event of a divorce. As separate property neither party would have an interest in the others. Husband testified that he had never met his wife’s lawyer and he signed the prenuptial agreement without reading it or being told by his wife’s lawyer what was contained in the agreement. He did not know what assets or property his wife owned at the time of marriage and thought the agreement was “some type of nuptial love story”. The trial court determined that the prenuptial agreement was enforceable and the Michigan Court of Appeals agreed, overturning the trial court inasmuch as the agreement was voluntary.
Booth v. Booth, 194 Mich app 284 (1992)
In the case of Booth v. Booth, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that prenuptial agreements are generally valid and enforceable, provided certain criteria were met. The criteria for enforcement are:
- Whether the agreement was obtained through fraud, duress, mistake, or non-disclosure of material facts.
- Whether the agreement was unconscionable, and
- Whether the facts or circumstances have changed to make enforcement unfair and unreasonable.
In the Booth case, the agreement is voluntary unless the agreement was obtained through fraud, duress, mistake, or non-disclosure of material facts.
In the case of Cheff v. Cheff, the husband appealed from an order voiding a postnuptial (after marriage) agreement signed by the parties which provided a waiver of an interest in alimony or property of the other should the parties divorce. The trial court voided the agreement upon finding that there had been inadequate disclosures of assets by the husband and the Michigan Court of Appeals agreed, finding the agreement was not voluntarily entered into because the husband failed to disclose all of his assets before entering into the agreement.
In part on of this series we examined the seminal case law of prenuptial agreements in Michigan, in part three we will examine the law governing Unconsionablity and change in circumstances.
About Findling Law
I have been exclusively practicing divorce and family law in Michigan for over two decades. The attorneys at Findling Law all share the core value of practicing law to help people navigate change in their lives, without compromising principles. We specialize in high socio-economic, high-profile and high-conflict cases, while also working with clients of all backgrounds. We recognize that the most important aspect of the practice of law is the application of the law to your specific circumstances.That is why we provide more free information on divorce and family law than any other Michigan law firm. We want to help you manage your situation. Allow our exceptional legal team to help you navigate the change in your life, without compromising principles.
By: Daniel Findling