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FAMILY LAW 39: If postnuptial agreement seeks to promote marriage, Michigan courts may enforce the agreement.

Plaintiff and defendant married in 2007. During the marriage, the parties maintained separate bank accounts. They are both attorneys with separate legal practices.

In 2016, the parties purchased the marital home for $375,000. Plaintiff paid the purchase price with funds from her own account, but defendant arranged for $100,000 to be transferred to plaintiff’s account in connection with the purchase, and both parties’ names were placed on the deed.

Plaintiff filed for divorce in August 2016. The trial court determined that the recently purchased home was a marital asset and it awarded each party half of its equity value.

Plaintiff argues that the trial court erred by determining that the home was a marital asset instead of plaintiff’s separate property, and by awarding defendant half of its equity value. Plaintiff argues that the trial court erred by failing to find that she was entitled to the marital home as her separate property pursuant to an alleged postnuptial agreement.

Under Michigan law, a couple that is maintaining a marital relationship may not enter into an enforceable contract that anticipates and encourages a future separation or divorce. If a postnuptial agreement seeks to promote marriage by keeping a husband and wife together, Michigan courts may enforce the agreement if it is equitable to do so.

In this case, the trial court rejected plaintiff’s argument that the parties had an enforceable agreement that governed the disposition of the marital home. The court first noted that the parties had not reduced any alleged agreement to writing. Although plaintiff maintained that she and defendant had orally agreed that the marital home would be awarded to her as her separate property in the event of a divorce, plaintiff has presented no authority in support of her argument that any alleged oral agreement would be enforceable.

Michigan’s statute of frauds, MCL 566.106, provides:

No estate or interest in lands, other than leases for a term not exceeding 1 year, nor any trust or power over or concerning lands, or in any manner relating thereto, shall hereafter be created, granted, assigned, surrendered or declared, unless by act or operation of law, or by a deed or conveyance in writing, subscribed by the party creating, granting, assigning, surrendering or declaring the same, or by some person thereunto by him lawfully authorized by writing.

The marital home was titled in the names of both parties. Plaintiff seeks to defeat defendant’s record interest in the property by arguing that she was entitled to the home as her separate property under a postnuptial agreement. Because the alleged agreement pertains to an interest in real property, plaintiff is not entitled to enforce it absent a writing that satisfies the statute of frauds.

Are you facing a divorce in Michigan? Do you have questions about how your assets and your debts will be divided with your soon-to-be ex-spouse?

Financial issues are often the biggest concern for individuals and families who are facing divorce.

At the Plymouth and Ann Arbor law firm of Aldrich Legal Services, our attorneys understand the struggles you may face. We will work hard to help you obtain all to which you are entitled during your divorce.

Contact Aldrich Legal Services

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