Massachusetts Postnuptial Agreement

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Updated August 07, 2022

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A Massachusetts postnuptial agreement is a contract between spouses used to determine what will happen to mutually owned property in the event their marriage ends in divorce or death. Like prenuptial agreements (prenups), postnuptial agreements supersede the traditional property division rules during a divorce proceeding and can be valuable estate planning tools. Unlike prenuptial agreements, which are signed before a marriage, postnuptial agreements are signed after a couple is already married and are sometimes called “marital agreements.” Sometimes they are signed quickly after marriage, while in other cases, they are signed after the couple has been married for years.

Signing Requirements (Ansin v. Craven-Ansin (2010)) – Both parties must sign the agreement.

Laws

Role of Court: A judge will always review a marital agreement to ensure that coercion or fraud played no part in its execution. Ansin v. Craven-Ansin (2010).

Separation Agreements: Massachusetts distinguishes postnuptial agreements from “separation agreements,” which are signed by couples intending to get divorced. Ansin v. Craven-Ansin (2010).

Enforceability: At a minimum, postnuptial agreements must meet the following requirements to be enforceable:
  1. Each party has had an opportunity to obtain separate legal counsel of each party’s choosing;
  2. There was fraud or coercion in obtaining the agreement;
  3. Both parties fully disclosed all assets before the agreement was executed;
  4. Each spouse knowingly and explicitly agreed in writing to waive the right to an equitable judicial division of assets and all marital rights in the event of a divorce; and
  5. The terms of the agreement are fair and reasonable at the time of execution and at the time of divorce.

Where one spouse challenges the agreement’s enforceability, the spouse seeking to enforce the agreement has the burden of proving the agreement meets these requirements.

Ansin v. Craven-Ansin (2010).