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Michigan Family Law Blog

Can I Contest My Prenuptial Agreement in a Divorce in Michigan?

Posted by Cameron Goulding | Feb 14, 2024 | 0 Comments

Photo by Fred Moon on Unsplash

Prenuptial agreements are commonly used to protect the assets and/or income of one or both parties to a marriage.  Sometimes after the parties to a prenuptial have been married for a long period of time, it can seem unfair to one spouse to enforce the contract as it is written.  This leads to the question: "if I file for divorce, while I have to abide by the terms of the prenuptial agreement?"  This blog is intended to address some changes to the caselaw in Michigan that may allow you to "contest" an otherwise valid prenuptial agreement.  This area of the law is very fact specific, so if you have questions regarding your situation, you should contact us to schedule a consultation through our online request for consultation or by calling (248) 608-4123.

Are Prenuptial Agreements Valid in Michigan?

As a general principle prenuptial agreements are valid in Michigan.  There are some basic requirements regarding the drafting and signing of the contract that must be met and once they are met it has been the law in this State for over twenty years that the parties are bound by the agreement as they have "agreed to be the masters of their own financial ship."  However as sometimes happens, there have been developments in the applicable caselaw.  These developments seem to call into question the enforceability and reliability of prenuptials in divorce cases. 

Are Prenuptials Enforceable in Michigan?

What has happened requires a very basic explanation of property division in a divorce and how that interacts with two statutes that are applicable to family law cases.  Very basically, when a court goes to divide the property between the spouses, it must first determine whether the property is marital or separate.  Marital property is divided equitably between the spouses while separate property is deemed to be the separate property of one spouse and is awarded entirely to that spouse without offset of other property.  Prenuptial agreements tend to take what would have otherwise been marital property and give it a designation of being the separate property of one spouse or the other.  In this way the property is protected from division in a divorce

The two statutes referred to above require the court in some circumstances to invade the separate property of one spouse and award a portion of that property to the other spouse.  The first instance is where the spouse has contributed to the accumulation or management of that separate property.  The way in which a spouse can contribute to the property does not have to be direct, it can include indirect contributions to the management, retention or accumulation of the asset.  For instance, where one spouse directly owns and manages a small business while the other spouse indirectly contributes to it through home management and child rearing.  The other instance is where it appears that the property or alimony awarded to one spouse is insufficient for that spouse's support and maintenance. 

The issue that arises is how recent case law has indicated these statutes apply in situations where there is a prenuptial agreement.  The Michigan Supreme Court and the Michigan Court of Appeals has held that the separate property which the court may be required to invade according to these statutes includes property that is separate because of a prenuptial agreement.  This in turn means that even if the prenuptial agreement is valid, there are situations where the court may invade that separate property and award it to the other spouse despite the existence of a valid prenuptial agreement.  So it now appears that while the prenuptial agreement may be valid, it does not always mean that it will be fully enforced in the event of a divorce.

This is a very complicated and evolving area of the law.  If you have concerns about how a prenuptial might apply if there is a divorce, please do not hesitate to schedule a consultation by contacting us online or calling at (248) 608-4123.

About the Author

Cameron Goulding

A native of Oakland County, Michigan, family lawyer Cameron C. Goulding has been providing counseling and legal services of the highest caliber to individuals and families in Southeastern Michigan for over 24 years. Mr. Goulding grew up in Oakland County, Michigan and graduated from Birmingham G...


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