Many couples have heard of a prenuptial agreement, which is a document that determines property rights and interests prior to a marriage, but many do not realize that a postnuptial agreement is also an option for married couples who wish to do the same. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recognizes the legitimacy of postnuptial agreements, also known as marital agreements, as a way to identify and clarify the management and control of finances and other assets between spouses as a way to create a more harmonious marriage. If you would like to speak with an expert in family law about creating a postnuptial agreement for your marriage, call or contact the Law Office of Rachel M. Matos to schedule a consultation.
Criteria for a Valid Postnuptial Agreement
The Court recognized the validity of postnuptial agreements in a 2010 court case, Ansin v. Craven-Ansin. In the opinion, the court listed five factors that must be met in order to have a valid marital agreement. These factors include the following:
- Each spouse must have the opportunity for independent counsel to review the agreement
- There must be no fraud or coercion in consenting to the agreement
- All assets must be fully disclosed prior to the signing of the agreement
- Whether each spouse knowingly consented to waiving their rights to an equitable distribution of property and spousal support in the event of divorce
- Whether the terms were fair and reasonable both at the time of execution and at the time of enforcement in a divorce
In addition, a postnuptial agreement cannot be created as part of divorce planning or in anticipation of divorce. It also cannot contain any terms that are contrary to public policy. You should always have an experienced family law attorney present during the negotiation, review, and signing of a postnuptial agreement to protect and enforce your rights as a spouse.
Contesting a Postnuptial Agreement
If a postnuptial agreement is submitted as part of a divorce, one or both spouses may contest the terms. The court will review the agreement to determine whether it was fair and reasonable both at the time of signing and presently as part of the divorce. A judge may consider the following factors when making a determination on the validity of this contract:
- Whether the purpose of the agreement was to protect third parties, such as children
- The length of the marriage
- The motives and bargaining power of each spouse when the agreement was signed
- The circumstances leading to the creation of the postnuptial agreement
- Whether both spouses had independent counsel
- The financial and property divisions dictated in the agreement
- The complexity of the issues
- The background and knowledge of each spouse, and
- Any other factor the judge deems relevant
If the postnuptial agreement is contested as part of the divorce, it is critical that an experienced attorney represents your interests in your case.
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Postnuptial agreements have the ability to create security and bolster a relationship between spouses with the knowledge that their interests are protected if anything ever goes wrong in the marriage. However, you should always have experienced, independent counsel by your side to help you navigate the process. If you would like to learn more about postnuptial agreements in Massachusetts, call or contact the Law Office of Rachel M. Matos today to schedule a consultation.