Can A Prenuptial Agreement In Massachusetts Be Unenforceable?
40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce. A well-rounded and executed prenup is likely to save couples significant resources, time, and expenses. By entering into a prenuptial agreement, individuals intending to marry can better spell out their legal obligations and rights to one another throughout the marriage.
Even though both parties need to agree to the prenup, there are some cases where the agreement can be made unenforceable.
What Does A Prenuptial Agreement Cover?
A prenuptial agreement, also known as “antenuptial agreement” or a “prenup,” is a contract between two individuals who plan on getting married.
In most cases, Massachusetts law mandates the courts to enforce and implement the prenuptial agreement if the marriage ends – either through divorce or death. The agreement outlines and handles a variety of issues.
The most common problems addressed in a prenup include:
- Division of property acquired during and/or before the marriage
- Alimony payments for either party due to divorce
- How both parties handle debt accrued during the marriage
- Second marriages where either one or both parties bring in their assets
- Division in case of a considerable difference in income or assets of either spouse
- If any party acquires a significant purchase/investment like real estate holdings or a family business that they want to safeguard
But just like other agreements, a run-of-the-mill prenuptial agreement doesn’t cover or address many issues and is subject to local law. For instance, provisions concerning child support are not usually enforceable because Massachusetts law dictates a separate course of action to determine the child support payments. Moreover, any provisions contradictory to the public policy, like financial incentives for annulment, are also unenforceable.
Enforceability Of Prenuptial Agreements In Massachusetts
According to Massachusetts law, a prenup or prenuptial agreement is typically enforceable when it is reasonable and fair to both spouses at the implementation time. Be mindful that courts sometimes re-evaluate a prenuptial contract during divorce proceedings to ensure it reflects the same intentions the involved parties had when the agreement was initially signed.
As per Massachusetts Court, prenuptial agreements can be unenforceable for various reasons, ranging from technical to rational. When drafted correctly in line with the Massachusetts law, prenup offers the intended security and is unbiased at the time of validation and enforcement. Here are some of the reasons that can make a prenuptial agreement unenforceable in Massachusetts.
One of the primary requirements for a prenuptial agreement to be valid in Massachusetts is that it should be in writing and must be authenticated. Verbal agreements of any kind are not enforceable because there is no record to supersede the terms and conditions put forward by each party.
Enacted Under Coercion Or By Force
Both the parties must sign the prenuptial agreement voluntarily. If either of the involved parties is forced or threatened to sign the contract, it becomes invalid and unenforceable as per Massachusetts statute.
Absence Of An External Attorney Representative
While Massachusetts law doesn’t require the involved parties to be accompanied by their lawyers for a legally binding prenuptial agreement, it is highly recommended. Legal representation provides both parties with a clear understanding of a prenup and how it will impact them during the divorce proceedings.
Prenuptial agreements aim to represent the interests of both parties. Suppose the magistrate suspects that one of the parties was illegally pressured. In that case, the judiciary may make some parts or the entire prenuptial agreement unenforceable.
“Second Look” Or Re-Evaluation Of Contract
For an enforceable prenuptial agreement in Massachusetts, it has to be reasonable and impartial at two times of investigation: first, when it was signed prior to the marriage; second, at the time of annulment, when individuals request to apply it.
To determine if a prenup is unbiased and fair at the time of implementation, courts in Massachusetts take a “second look” or analyze it at the time of separation to make sure the agreement is enforceable and not unconscionable. A second look into the prenuptial agreements allows the Massachusetts court to check that the contract has the same fairness and rationality at the time of annulment.
An agreement is unenforceable if it leaves one of the parties without adequate property, maintenance, or suitable employment to provide for themselves in the future. The court considers such prenuptial agreements unacceptable.
Fabricated Or Incomplete Financial information
A couple who signs a prenup in Massachusetts must disclose all of their financial information full and fair. This includes all debts, assets, income, properties, and corporate interests. Parties must be well-prepared to provide backup documentation and appraisals.
If any spouse misrepresents or undervalues assets or omits some critical information, the agreement by law will be rendered unenforceable.
From the ways both parties will share expenses to future alimony payments/obligations, a prenuptial agreement addresses a vast number of areas. However, no prenup can legally modify or waive child support responsibilities that a child is entitled to otherwise.
“Lifestyle” clauses in prenuptial agreements contain provisions concerning infidelity, weight gain, and other quite particular lifestyle arrangements. In Massachusetts, law courts are hesitant to impose lifestyle clauses as they are difficult to substantiate and are often unreasonable or unfair to enforce.
Both parties must have sufficient time to negotiate the conditions, review their agreement with the attorney, and make additional changes before signing the deal. However, Massachusetts law doesn’t dictate the right length of time for this to happen.
Suppose the Massachusetts law deems that there wasn’t adequate time for the involved parties to do so. In that case, either spouse may have been subjected to coercion to bind the contract because of the upcoming wedding date. In that case, a prenup may be unenforceable.
Get Legal Support For Your Prenuptial Agreement
Prenuptial agreements safeguard your rights and assets during marriage and in a divorce event alike. However, for a prenup to be valid, you need to conform to the specifications and requirements mandated by Massachusetts law.
Get an appointment with The Law Offices Of Richard Mucci to work with an experienced attorney who can help you with the intricacies of marital assets division.