The equitable distribution laws in Michigan require marital estates to be divided fairly in divorce cases, but couples who plan ahead can avoid contentious property division negotiations or unpredictable court rulings by entering into prenuptial agreements. These documents, which are sometimes referred to as premarital or antenuptial agreements, are legal in Michigan, but they can be difficult to enforce. When prenuptial agreements are signed, they do not go into effect until the couple gets married.
Family law judges in the Great Lakes State may be reluctant to enforce prenuptial agreements that are not in writing, were not entered into or negotiated in good faith, are unfair or were signed under duress. Judges also consider whether the circumstances of the couple changed significantly between the time that the document was signed and the divorce. It is not unknown for a prenuptial agreement that was basically fair when a couple signed it to be deemed unconscionable by a court when the couple divorces years or even decades later.
In order to avoid problems enforcing premarital agreements, couples should ensure that they disclose all of their assets, debts and sources of income during negotiations. To avoid conflict of interest claims, each party should be represented during negotiations by their own independent attorney. Couples should also bear in mind that prenuptial agreements can have provisions dealing with property division and spousal support, but they cannot be used to establish terms for child custody or visitation.
Family law attorneys with experience in prenuptial agreement litigation may advise couples to review these documents on a regular basis and make any needed revisions. Attorneys might argue in court that a prenuptial agreement should not be enforced if their client was coerced into signing the document or if its provisions will no longer produce an equitable outcome.