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Michigan Family Law Blog

Friday, December 27, 2019

When a Prenuptial Agreement Precedes an Invalid Wedding

Q: What happens to a prenuptial agreement if the wedding isn’t valid?

A “prenup”, as prenuptial agreements are called, is a contract between two unmarried people who are preparing to marry and want to maintain their own separate assets and income after the marriage.

Michigan prenuptial agreement attorneys use them to help couples designate how existing and future assets and debts, among other things, will be divided in the event they later divorce. Some people feel uncomfortable or offended to be asked to sign a prenup – as if making one casts doubt on their love or commitment. Others feel peace of mind from addressing expectations and doing advanced planning for divorce at a time when they are still happy and level-headed. If things unravel in the future, having a prenup can expedite the time and expense of a future divorce.

Who can benefit from a Michigan prenuptial agreement?

People who may benefit include:

  • those with minor or adult children from a prior marriage;
  • those who own or have an interest in a family business;
  • those who own assets that could increase in value (like real estate, stock, etc.);
  • those who might receive an inheritance in the future; and
  • those who want to iron out spousal support terms.

Prenups are very popular among couples with children from prior relationships as they address what happens if a spouse dies and how assets will be divided between children of the prior marriages and expected children of the new marriage. If you don’t have one done before marrying, you can make one afterward—though it will be aptly called a postnuptial agreement in that case.

Properly-drafted, formal prenuptial agreements are enforceable in court, but that doesn’t mean they are immune to being contested.

Generally, the prenup is signed prior to the couple entering into a valid marriage. Occasionally, couples may intentionally or unintentionally find that their subsequent marriage was invalid.

Recently, a prenuptial agreement between an heiress to a multimillion-dollar auto group fortune and her hairstylist partner is in the center of legal controversy in two states.

Reportedly, the prenup was signed just before the couple’s lavish, four-day long, $1 million dream wedding. The Utah ceremony was officiated by an allegedly un-ordained yoga instructor friend. Three years later, the heiress reportedly presented her “husband” with a separation agreement referring to their “symbolic” ceremony, prompting him to contact the officiant for clarification.

At the center of the controversy is whether, as the groom alleges, the bride told the officiant that she “didn’t have to actually become ordained in Utah” because they were marrying officially in New York beforehand. The groom alleges this fraud was perpetrated to give the bride the dream wedding experience without the rights and responsibilities of a binding, legal marriage.

Though they both are seeking to have the marriage recognized in Utah--solely for the purpose of legally divorcing—the groom seeks to have the prenup declared “non-binding” and asked for $2 million in damages in federal court in New York, according to reports. The bride allegedly claims he was aware they needed “to make their marriage legal” after the Utah ceremony. It will be interesting to see how the courts ultimately rule.

Contact Our Michigan Prenuptial Agreement Attorney

If you need assistance with a prenuptial agreement, a postnuptial agreement, or any other family law matter, Cameron C. Goulding Family Law and Mediation, P.L.C. can help you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

From our office in Rochester Michigan, we provide experienced, one-on-one legal services in all aspects of family law to clients throughout Oakland, Macomb, Genesee, Livingston, Lapeer and Wayne Counties.


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