Now Accepting New Clients!



The parties met and began cohabitating in 2003.  In 2011, plaintiff and defendant began discussing marriage.  The parties had lived together for years, but each had their own separate businesses and assets.  Thus, leading up to their 2012 marriage, the parties negotiated the terms of what was to be a prenuptial agreement.  Plaintiff and defendant e-mailed back and forth, and discussed an agreement for approximately 16 months before its execution.   Although the agreement was supposed to be a prenuptial agreement, it turned into a postnuptial agreement because of time constraints.  In other words, despite working on it for 16 months and agreeing to the major provisions, the agreement was not signed prior to the marriage.  Plaintiff testified that, after they were married, defendant indicated that he was not going to sign the agreement, which greatly frustrated her.  Nonetheless, after reviewing the document and obtaining advice from separate legal counsel, the agreement was eventually executed on September 19, 2012, which was approximately one month after the marriage.

In October 2016, plaintiff filed for divorce .  Plaintiff subsequently filed a motion to enforce the agreement.  Defendant opposed the motion, and asked the court to void the agreement, arguing the agreement went against public policy because it was made in contemplation of a future divorce .  The trial court conducted an evidentiary hearing on the issue of enforceability, where the parties’ presented their own testimony and offered exhibits into evidence.   The trial court issued a written decision granting plaintiff’s motion.  In its opinion, the trial court noted that the parties had discussed the terms of the agreement for a period of 16 months, and that each party had been represented by counsel throughout this period, and up to the agreement’s execution.  The trial court stated that, although the parties “contemplated” that the agreement would be a prenuptial agreement, it “evolved into a postnuptial agreement” because the parties married six weeks before the agreement was executed.   Recognizing that postnuptial agreements were not unenforceable per se and were acceptable if they “intended to promote harmonious marital relations and keep the marriage together,” the trial court found that the agreement was the type of postnuptial agreement acceptable under Michigan law, reasoning in part that [n]othing in the agreement itself or the record suggests that the parties contemplated a separation in the near future when they signed the agreement.  On the contrary, the agreement was made in large part to fulfill the desire of the parties to define and clarify their respective rights in each other’s property and in any jointly held property that they owned prior to the execution of the Marital Agreement or thereafter acquired.


Since postnuptial and other marital agreements are contracts, we are guided by contract principles in reviewing the agreement.  Accordingly, we review de novo the trial court’s interpretation of a contract as well as its ruling on legal questions that affect the contract’s validity.  However, we review for clear error any factual findings made by the trial court.


Defendant argues that the agreement was unenforceable because it was contrary to public policy.  As defendant notes, the general rule is that “a couple that is maintaining a marital relationship may not enter into an enforceable contract that anticipates and encourages a future separation or divorce.”  To allow such agreements “would encourage separation or divorce, which is not an appropriate public policy.”  Despite this general prohibition against postnuptial agreements, we have recognized that they “ ‘are not invalid per se,’ because some postnuptial agreements may be intended to promote harmonious marital relations and keep the marriage together.” Accordingly, if the agreement in question “seeks to promote marriage by keeping a husband and wife together, Michigan courts may enforce the agreement if it is equitable to do so.”

The parties to the instant agreement expressly stated they were agreeing to ‘continue to live together as husband and wife,’ and there is nothing in the agreement that shows it was ‘calculated to favor a separation,’ or that it was drawn to ‘provide for a separation of the parties and a breaking up of the marriage.’  Instead of coming to such a conclusion, it is more logical to state that the parties now before this Court entered into said agreement with the hopes that the marital journey they had commenced as rather elderly people would continue on without discord if they eliminated the only dispute or problem they faced, namely: The eventual disposition of property owned severally at the time of marriage as well as that acquired jointly during the marriage.

Turning back to the parties’ agreement, the parties initially acknowledge their mutual desire “to define and clarify their respective rights in each other’s property and in any jointly owned property they now own or might accumulate after today and to avoid interests that, except as provided by this agreement, they might otherwise acquire in each other’s property as a consequence of their marriage relationship” (emphasis added).  This description is important in understanding its purpose and the parties’ intent, as the plain language demonstrates that its purpose was merely to define and clarify the parties’ rights during the course of the marriage and at the end of the marriage, whether it ends by divorce or death.  Nothing in the agreement suggests that it was created in contemplation of a future separation or divorce.  In fact, the agreement contained terms to help support the marriage.  For example, one provision speaks to the creation of a joint marital checking account, the purpose of which is to fund joint expenses during the marriage.  In this way, the parties could easily pay for joint expenses while still retaining their separate bank accounts, thereby eliminating a potential acrimonious issue and promoting a harmonious marriage.

To this same point, the agreement also contained a “cooling off” provision, which required the parties to wait four months and attend joint marital counseling before filing for divorce.  This provision likewise reflects the parties desire to refrain from making hasty decisions and to take affirmative steps to preserve the marriage if possible.  We therefore reject defendant’s contention that the agreement was created to encourage, or was made in contemplation of, divorce, rather than for the harmonious continuation of the marriage.  

We also think it important that the parties discussed and negotiated the agreement for 16 months, most of which was prior to the marriage.  It was undisputed before the trial court that the agreement was supposed to be a prenuptial agreement, and that it became a postnuptial one only because time constraints prevented earlier finalization.  Accordingly, we agree with the trial court that this was not an agreement that contemplated a future divorce; nor was it an agreement that encouraged divorce.  Instead, the agreement reveals that the parties clearly wished to be married and remain married, and the agreement was meant to help facilitate this.  

Based on the trial court’s findings, though living together, the parties’ agreement was not in contemplation of them separating or divorcing.  As the trial court concluded, because the postnuptial agreement addressed the disposition of property at death or in case of divorce, and otherwise allowed the parties to pursue their marriage in a manner most likely to allow it to flourish, and was not otherwise inequitable in its terms, it was not contrary to public policy.


Aldrich Legal Services understands what a stressful time this is for you when you are divorcing your spouse.

Aldrich Legal Services represent parties throughout southeast Michigan with a wide range of divorce related matters.

Contact Aldrich Legal Services

Speak to a Pro: (734) 404-3000

REAL ESTATE 65: Determining that it could not conclude the trial court erred in its factual findings, and that it did not err in reforming a 2005 deed, the court affirmed the ruling that defendants were fee simple owners of the disputed 50-foot area

This case arose from a real-property dispute between brothers, as well as their respective wives. After a bench trial, the trial court rendered its findings of fact. The trial court determined that plaintiffs did not prove that excluding the...

FAMILY LAW 58: The trial court did not err by denying defendant-father’s motion to change custody and modify his parenting time of the parties’ child without having an evidentiary hearing to determine if there was proper cause or a change in circums

This case arose from a custody and parenting-time dispute between plaintiff-mother and father over their minor child. After father failed to respond to the paternity complaint within the 21 days of receipt of the complaint, mother filed an affidavit...

DIVORCE 53: Although the court affirmed the trial court’s decisions to deny defendant’s motions to set aside the default and the default JOD, it vacated the portions of the default JOD as to the distribution of marital property, custody, parenting t

Plaintiff filed for divorce. Defendant filed an answer and a counterclaim for divorce.  Plaintiff and defendant were both ordered to appear at the settlement conference. After defendant failed to appear, the trial court entered a default. Soon...

FAMILY LAW 53: The trial court erred by treating the parties’ GAL as an LGAL and denying the parties the right to question her at a hearing; however, the trial court did not err in requiring the parties to compensate the GAL for her services.

Plaintiff and Defendant were never married, but share a young son who was born in 2016. The parties have battled over custody, child support, and other parenting issues ever since. In the spring of 2019, the parties filed competing motions to modify...

The Difference Between Theft, Robbery, and Burglary

Original Post: 1/11/2019 Often, burglary, robbery, and theft are used interchangeably even though there are distinct differences between all of them. Though, what all three do have in common is they may involve the unlawful taking of...

REAL ESTATE 59: Concluding that the one-year period contained in the parties’ home purchase agreement was not a statute of limitations, but rather akin to a statute of repose, and that it was plain and unambiguous, the court held that it barred plai

BACKGROUND On March 12, 2016, the parties entered into an agreement for the purchase of defendants’ home. The purchase agreement contained the following clause: TIME FOR LEGAL ACTION: Buyer and Seller agree that any legal action against...

CRIMINAL LAW 16: The trial court did not err in refusing to order a Daubert hearing as to the reliability of the DataMaster breathalyzer device as MCL 257.625a(6)(a) shows the Legislature has determined that the device’s results are valid and reliabl

UNDERLYING FACTS In the early afternoon of November 4, 2016, defendant was pulled over after an officer was dispatched for a possible drunk driver. The officer had defendant exit his vehicle and perform several field sobriety tests. Those tests...

FAMILY LAW 52: Defendant-mother was not entitled to relief on her claim the trial court did not comply with the requirements for a de novo hear, the trial court did not err in using the preponderance of the evidence standard, and its best interest f

PERTINENT FACTS In July 2017, plaintiff and defendant divorced by consent judgment. Under the judgment of divorce, the parties shared joint legal and physical custody of their three minor children. On September 24, 2018, plaintiff filed a motion...

Are you required to provide ID as a passenger?

Original Post: 05/14/2017 The preceding is for informational purposes only. Being stopped by the police is not usually a pleasant experience. Even with the most benign of infractions, the encounter can be adversarial. The idea of...

Don't let a bad decision, unfair contract, or a messy divorce get in the way of a promising future!
Contact the experienced team at Aldrich Legal Services today to schedule your free initial
and secure reliable and trustworthy representation today!
Get the Help You Need From a Team You Can Truly Count On: (734) 404-3000