Marriage is a time of joy and celebration, but many couples like to preface the ceremony with a dose of realism. Not all marriages succeed, and when they fail, spouses sometimes try to hurt each other during the divorce. That’s why many couples opt for a prenuptial agreement.

Michigan allows prenuptial agreements – also called antenuptial or premarital agreements – as long as a court considers them fair and finds they were entered into in good faith and without mistake, fraud or duress.

What a prenup can and cannot cover

A prenuptial agreement cannot cover child support or child custody. Michigan judges determine those issues based on the needs of the child as well as the financial ability of the parents to contribute at the time the parents separate.

A prenup can, however, cover:

  • How debts accrued before the marriage (such as student loans) should be paid
  • How anticipated inheritance should be distributed
  • Each spouse’s responsibility in handling assets and property
  • How to handle individual retirement accounts and life insurance proceeds
  • Amount and duration of alimony
  • Protect inheritance of children from a prior marriage
  • How to split up a business

Ways to bulletproof the prenup

The agreement must be made with each spouse fully disclosing any financial information. In fact, t’s a good idea to have each future spouse hire a lawyer to represent their interests and an accountant to prepare a financial statement.

At the time of the divorce, one spouse can challenge the validity of the prenup if that spouse can prove the other used physical or psychological threats to get them to sign it.

The court can also throw out the prenup if one of the spouses was intoxicate, mentally deficient or was suffering from a mental illness at the time the prenup was signed.

To amend a prenup, both sides need to sign a written amendment.

A prenuptial agreement is a document that carries the weight of the law. It should not be entered into lightly. Before signing, each spouse should talk to a qualified, experienced attorney.