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PRE-MARITAL AGREEMENTS

Are prenuptial agreements, or pre-marital agreements, valid?

Yes, in general, prenuptial, or antenuptial, agreements are valid. The theory is that each party willingly entered into the agreement and, as such, are contractually bound. However, if a court determines that a party did not willingly enter into the prenuptial agreement or the agreement was based on fraud, then the agreement will not be enforceable. For example, a party can contest a prenuptial agreement if he or she did not receive full and frank knowledge of all available assets of the other person. Likewise, a party can try to contest the validity of such an agreement if the agreement is too one-sided or unfair as to be considered unconscionable under state law.

What can parties contract to in a pre-marital agreement?

Those who are entering into marriage may enter into a contract with regard to virtually any matter regarding their rights and obligations, including disposition of proper-

What is the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act?

Twenty-six (26) states have adopted the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act, a model piece of legislation that was drafted in 1983. It defines such agreements and explains when such agreements are not enforceable.

Section 6 of the Model Act provides that such acts are not enforceable if one party did not enter into the contract voluntarily, the contract was unconscionable, one party did not receive full and fair disclosure of applicable assets, Another section of the law provides that the agreement cannot be modified or revoked without the written consent of both parties.

The following states have adopted a version based upon this model act: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin ty, spousal support or alimony, life insurance policies and other financial arrangements. However, the parties cannot contract away the right to child support. For example, Arkansas law provides: "The right of a child to support may not be adversely affected by a pre-marital agreement."

Can you be liable for the debts your spouse acquired prior to marriage?

In most states, a spouse is not liable for the pre-marital (or antenuptial) debts of his or her spouse. Most states specifically provide for such in a law. For example, Arkansas law provides: "In all marriages solemnized after February 1, 1899, neither spouse shall be held liable for the antenuptial debts of the other, except by virtue of a written contract."

DIVORCE

How can a marriage be annulled?

If a marriage is annulled, it is declared a legal nullity, meaning that it never existed. Grounds for annulment vary from state to state, as it does for most areas of domestic relations laws. Common examples include when a party lacked the capacity to consent to marriage through mental infirmity or when one party was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A marriage can be annulled if one party obtained consent from the other party through force or fraud. A marriage also can be annulled if one party lacks the physical ability to consummate the marriage (have sexual relations) and the other party did not know of this problem. A marriage also can be annulled if one party was under the age of consent as defined by applicable state law.

What are typical grounds for divorce?

Grounds for divorce vary from state to state. Common grounds for divorce include the failure of either party to consummate the marriage, imprisonment of one party, abandonment (desertion), bigamy, adultery, cruel and inhumane treatment, conviction of a felony or infamous crime, incurable mental illness, drug addiction, and attempted murder. Many states allow divorces under a catch-all category called "irreconcilable differences."

 
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