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Michigan Prenups and Postnups — What They Can and Cannot Do

Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements are typically thought of as ways for wealthy individuals to shield their assets from gold-digging spouses. But prenups and postnups have become common in many marriages, even when the spouses are on equal financial footings. A fair agreement can allow each spouse to make independent financial and property arrangements during the marriage and to control how their assets are divided if the marriage should come to an end.

Even if a couple never divorces, a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement can clarify how they will handle various matters during their marriage, such as:

  • Who manages their joint finances, business interests and other assets and in what manner
  • How premarital debts are paid
  • How to treat gifts and inheritance either spouse receives
  • What rights each spouse has as to certain properties, such as insurance and retirement accounts
  • The rights of children from a prior marriage to inherit or receive financial support from a parent
  • What happens to property when one of the spouses dies

A prenuptial or postnuptial agreement can also be used to avoid, or at least to limit, potentially contentious issues during divorce by settling them ahead of time. These issues may include how a divorcing or separating couple will divide the marital property, what happens to a jointly owned business and whether and how much alimony will be paid.

However, neither a prenup nor a postnup can govern who gets custody of the children or how child support is determined after divorce or during a separation. That is because it’s the court’s role to make those decisions, based on the best interests of the child, rather than the preferences of the parents.

In addition, a court may declare a prenuptial agreement invalid if it isn’t fair, reasonable and voluntary for both parties or if either of them signed it without fully understanding its terms and the financial circumstances of the other party. In fact, an agreement that was valid when it was signed might not be enforceable later on if a court decides that the circumstances have changed significantly. A couple that finds their prenuptial agreement no longer meets their needs may amend it by a postnuptial agreement, which is subject to the same legal requirements. To ensure that a prenup or postnup is valid and meets expectations, both parties should seek the advice and retain the services of a family law attorney well-versed in the law pertaining to these agreements.

Dawson Family Law, PLLC in Sterling Heights negotiates, drafts and revises prenuptial and postnuptial agreements for clients throughout Michigan. Please call 833-671-4445 or contact me online for a free initial consultation.


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