Understanding Postnuptial Agreements

  • By:Karpenski & Schmelkin

Post-nuptial agreements are contracts entered into after marriage by couples to create a clear understanding of the management and control of their finances and assets to create a happier marriage. Spouses cannot, however, create a post-nuptial agreement as part of divorce planning or in the anticipation of divorce. Post-nuptial agreements are meant to take effect in the event the couple divorce.

Requirements of Postnuptial Agreements

In order to enforce a post-nuptial agreement in Massachusetts, the court will consider several factors.  Based on the Massachusetts case Ansin vs. Craven-Ansinthe court will consider the enforcement of a post-nuptial agreement only if certain requirements are met. These requirements include whether the postnuptial agreement was fair and reasonable at the time of execution; and whether the postnuptial agreement was fair and reasonable at the time of divorce.

Fair and Reasonable at time of Execution

In determining whether or not the agreement was fair and reasonable at the time it was signedor executed, the court may consider the difference in the outcome under the agreement and existing legal principles.  In doing so, the court may consider the following:

  • Whether the purpose of the agreement was to benefit or protect the interests of third          parties, such as the children from a prior relationship. The judge may also consider the           impact of the agreement’s enforcement upon the children of the parties;
  • The length of marriage;
  • The motives of each spouse, and their respective bargaining positions at the time the                                 agreement was drafted;
  • The circumstances giving rise to the marital agreement the degree of the pressure, if any,                          experienced by one spouse;
  • Were the parties both represented by counsel throughout the negotiations; and
  • All other circumstances the judge finds relevant.

Fair and Reasonable at time of Enforcement

In determining whether or not the agreement was fair and reasonable at the time of enforcement or divorce, the court may consider the difference in the outcome under the agreement and existing legal principles.  In doing so, the court may consider the following:

  • The nature and substance of the objecting party’s complaint;
  • The financial and property division provisions of the agreement as a whole;
  • The context in which the negotiations took place;
  • The complexity of the issues involved;
  • The background and knowledge of the parties;
  • The experience and ability of counsel; and
  • The discretionary factors set forth in M.G.L. c. 208 §34.

It is important to know that Massachusetts is an equitable, not an equal state when it comes to property division.  If you are contemplating entering into a post-nuptial agreement it is critical that you have the assistance of an experienced Divorce Attorney.  For exceptional assistance, contact the knowledgeable and experienced attorneys at Karpenski & Schmelkin, Divorce and Family Law Attorneys.

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Posted in: Divorce