In part one of this series on prenups (or an agreement made by a couple before they marry concerning their assets and support should they divorce), we discussed the seminal prenup case law in Michigan.
In part two of this series we discussed the standards of enforceability of prenups in Michigan.
In this article, we will explore additional cases which cover prenups.
Prenups – the cases.
One of the leading prenup cases (after the Rinvelt case discussed in part one of this series) is the Allard case.
In March of 2017, I discussed the Allard III case in detail in an an article entitled which I discussed the notion that the case may be the end of prenuptial agreements.
In Allard, the Michigan Court of Appeals provided that a trial court can invade the separate property of a spouse even if there is a prenup. However, the decision in Allard only applies if there is insufficient property to support a spouse. So the key learning is a prenup may not be enforced if it leaves a spouse with nothing. Although Allard is still good law, provided the prenup does not leave one party a pauper rendering enforcement unconscionable, a court is not likely to invade separate property.
In Forrester v. Graham, the Michigan Court of Appeals, the husband brought a legal malpractice case against his attorney in drafting a prenuptial agreement that was not enforced. The Michigan Court of Appeals stating:
. . . we recognize that antenuptial agreements are no longer considered “void ab initio as contrary to public policy” in Michigan so long as certain fairness standards are met
In the case of Chudnow v. Chudnow, the court chose not to enforce a prenup because a non-disclosure of information went to the essence of the formation of the antenuptial agreement.
In the case of Dinneweth v. Dinneweth, the wife argued that an arbitrator exceeded his powers by issuing a decision that deviated from the prenup. The court denied the wife’s appeal holding that the arbitrator did not contravine existing controlling authority as the seminal case of Reed v. Reed was not yet decided.
In the case of Trudeau-Chene v. Chene, the court addressed the issue of enforcing a prenuptial agreement when “circumstances have changed since the agreement was executed, rendering its enforcement unfair and unreasonable”.
In the case of Thelen v. Thelen , the Court of Appeals held that the first step in determining if the facts and circumstances are so changed since the agreement was executed that the enforcement of the prenup would be unfair and unreasonable is to “focus on whether the changed circumstances were foreseeable when the agreement was made”.
This cursory review of prenup case law demonstrates how the law is complex. In addition to statutory law and case law, there are court rules and old English Common Law, which further complicates the analysis. Notwithstanding, it is our hope that this three part series on prenuptial agreements provided you with enough “nitty gritty details to keep you occupied.
The key learning in this series are that Prenuptial Agreements are enforceable in Michigan provided there is full disclosure, negotiated in good faith and not unconscionable to enforce. We can help you draft, review or challenge prenup and achieve your goals.
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By: Daniel Findling
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