Antenuptial Agreements

This was confronted as a matter of first impression in Rinvelt v. Rinvelt, 190 Mich App 372 (1991). Rinvelt looked to the law of other jurisdictions and determined that "both the realities of our society and policy reasons favor judicial recognition of prenuptial agreements…" Id at 381. However, the court adopts certain standards or questions of fairness in evaluating whether the agreement should be followed. These are---

  1. Was the agreement obtained through fraud, duress or mistake, or misrepresentation or non-disclosure of material fact?
  2. Was the agreement unconscionable when executed?
  3. Have the facts and circumstances changed since the agreement was executed, so as to make its enforcement unfair and unreasonable?

This seems like a reasonable and workable ruling. Rinvelt was followed in Booth v. Booth, 194 Mich App 284, 288 (1992).

Rinvelt was recently followed in Chudnow v. Chudnow, No. 218650 (Unpublished, April 27, 2001) where the appellate court affirmed the failure of a trial court to enforce an agreement where Defendant "intentionally failed to disclose the real nature of her relationship with" an ex-boyfriend before the agreement was executed and Plaintiff alleged "he never would have signed such a contract if he knew the truth." While the court did not think Defendant’s non-disclosure was fraudulent in the ordinary sense, it felt that condition #3 of Rinvelt justified the lower court’s conclusion.

In the past couple of years Michigan appellate courts have made broad pronouncements that are more favorable to these agreements than would be indicated in prior case law. See Reed v. Reed, 265 Mich App 131 (2006). In Reed the COA overturned the trial court's refusal to enforce an agreement, despite the passage of 26 years since the entry of the document. [See #3 in Rinvelt, above.] Anyone trying to enforce or break one of these agreements needs to examine this precedent carefully. See also Lentz v. Lentz, 271 Mich App 465 (2006); Mason v. Mason, ---Mich App---(Unpublished, 5/15/07);Chene v. Chene, ---Mich Ap--- (Unpublished, 10/26/07).