Marriage is more than just a commitment to someone else, it's also a legal contract. As such, getting married affects each spouse's rights and responsibilities when it comes to property and debts. State laws determine the couple's separate and marital property, but couples do have some control over property division if they draft a prenuptial agreement.
What Issues Can a Premarital Agreement Address?
A prenup or prenuptial agreement can outline a variety of topics. The most common include:
- How property and money acquired during the marriage will be characterized;
- Designation of specific property and money as the separate property of each spouse; and
- How debts will be handled.
As with other types of contracts, there are certain issues that can't be included in a premarital agreement. For example, provisions relating to child support aren't typically enforceable because states generally have specific guidelines to determine the amount of child support a person must pay. Provisions that are contrary to public policy, such as financial incentives for divorce, are also generally unenforceable.
Enforceability of Prenuptial Agreements in Massachusetts
Under Massachusetts laws, prenuptial agreements are called "antenuptial agreements." Generally, antenuptial agreements are enforceable when they're fair and reasonable to each party at the time of execution. It's important to be aware that courts will also sometimes re-examine a prenuptial agreement during divorce proceedings to make sure it still reflects the intentions that the parties had when the agreement was executed.
Overview of Prenuptial Agreements in Massachusetts
When there's a question about the law, a good source of information is the actual text of the law. However, statutory language is rarely written in a clear and straightforward manner, so it's also helpful to also have an overview of the statute handy. The following table provides a brief overview of laws relating to Massachusetts prenuptial agreements, as well as links to relevant statutes.
Massachusetts General Laws, Part II, Title III, Chapter 209:
- Section 25 (Antenuptial Settlements - Force and Effect)
- Section 26 (Antenuptial Settlements - Record, Description of Property)
|The Force and Effect of Prenuptial Agreements in Massachusetts
Parties are permitted under state law to make a written contract that provides how real or personal property will be characterized (i.e. as separate or marital property).
The contract can limit to each spouse an estate in fee or for life in any part of the property, and can designate other lawful limitations. These limitations take effect at the time of marriage as if they were contained in a property conveyance deed.
|Additional Requirements for Property Affected by a Prenuptial Agreement
A schedule of the property that's intended to be affected by an antenuptial agreement must be recorded in the county registry of deeds either before the marriage or ninety days after the marriage. The schedule must have clear description of the property so that a creditor of either spouse can distinguish it from other property.
Massachusetts General Laws, Part II, Title III:
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Prenuptial Agreements in Massachusetts: Related Resources
For additional information and resources related to this topic, please visit the links listed below.
Get Legal Help with Your Prenuptial Agreement in Massachusetts
Premarital agreements provide a way for you to protect your property during your marriage or in the event of a divorce. But in order for such an agreement to be valid, it must conform to the requirements provided by state laws. If you have questions about prenuptial agreements or would like help drafting or reviewing one, it's a good idea to speak with a skilled family law attorney in Massachusetts today.