Many Michigan couples sign prenuptial agreements before they wed. Most such agreements serve their intended purpose very well: reducing the amount of stress and acrimony if the couple decides to terminate their marriage.
Occasionally, however, one spouse discovers that the prenuptial agreement is unfair; perhaps a term regarding spousal support deprives one spouse of necessary income or one spouse hid assets before the prenuptial agreement was signed. Can anything be done about such circumstances?
In Michigan, the courts have substantial powers to invalidate a prenuptial agreement if the necessary circumstances can be proved in court.
Lack of formal requirements
A prenuptial agreement must be written and signed by both parties before the wedding. This requirement is uniformly enforced by the courts, but because most prenuptial agreements are drafted by attorneys, the formalities are rarely overlooked.
Signing a prenuptial agreement must be the free act of both spouses. If one of the spouses believes that he or she was the subject of undue pressure to sign, the agreement may be declared invalid.
Similarly, if one spouse did not allow the other spouse sufficient time to review the agreement before signing it, the agreement may be declared to be invalid. Another form of pressure that can lead to the voiding of a prenuptial agreement is pressure to sign without seeking review by a competent lawyer.
If one spouse misrepresents a material fact to the other spouse before the agreement is signed, such as the amount of a person’s debts or assets, such fraud can be grounds for invalidating a prenuptial agreement. Failure to disclose a material fact may also constitute grounds for voiding the agreement.
If one or more terms impose a manifestly unfair burden on the spouse against whom enforcement is sought, most judges will refuse to enforce the agreement.
Marshalling enough evidence to persuade a judge to invalidate a prenuptial agreement can be a daunting task. The assistance of a competent divorce attorney can be essential to success.