Prenuptial Agreements Under Maryland Family Law
A prenuptial agreement is a contract between two people that they execute before becoming a married couple. These agreements traditionally exist to address financial imbalances between the soon-to-be spouses, ensuring that either party retains ownership of assets and property in the event of a divorce.
Legal Backdrop of Prenuptial Agreements
Under Maryland Code of Family Law Section 8-101, it is possible for spouses to enter into valid and enforceable contracts and agreements. Stated otherwise, Maryland law enables spouses to make agreements with each other concerning certain aspects of their marriage.
Beyond Section 8-101, however, Maryland family law does not inject many additional requirements concerning prenuptial agreements. Instead, prenuptial agreements are generally governed by the standard principles of contract law.
Valid Provisions of Prenuptial Agreements
Under Maryland family law, there are several categories of valid provisions for prenuptial agreements. Spouses in Maryland may execute a prenuptial agreement that concerns:
- Ownership Rights — Prenuptial agreements may dictate which spouse owns assets and property acquired before or during marriage;
- Inheritance Rights — Prenuptial agreements may address or restrict inheritance rights, including the rights of children from the current or a previous marriage;
- Spousal Support — Prenuptial agreements may include or exclude the right to claim alimony or other forms of spousal support; and
- Property Division — Prenuptial agreements may determine how the spouses engage in property division if they ever get divorced.
Invalid Provisions of Prenuptial Agreements
Under Maryland family law, there are several categories of invalid provisions for prenuptial agreements. Spouses in Maryland may not execute a prenuptial agreement that concerns:
- Promise to Divorce — Prenuptial agreements may not include a promise to divorce immediately after marriage;
- Promise to Marry — Prenuptial agreements may not include a promise to marry, unless one spouse is already pregnant;
- Child Custody — Prenuptial agreements may not address the terms and conditions of child custody in the event of divorce; or
- Child Support — Prenuptial agreements may not address the terms and conditions of child support in the event of divorce.
Enforceability of Prenuptial Agreements
In addition to the valid and invalid provisions described in the previous sections, there are several other factors that relate to the enforceability of prenuptial agreements. Spouses who wish to create an enforceable prenuptial agreement should:
- Obtain independent legal counsel for each spouse before preparing or executing the prenuptial agreement; and
- Execute the prenuptial agreement in writing signed by both spouses and verified by a notary public.
In order to challenge a prenuptial agreement as unenforceable, a spouse generally needs to prove gross unfairness or dishonesty. These are difficult standards to prove, especially when the spouses obtain independent counsel and execute a signed document.
Let Us Help You Today
If you need legal help with creating an enforceable prenuptial agreement in Maryland, it can be highly valuable to speak with a dedicated family law attorney. The Bel Air prenuptial agreement attorneys at Schlaich & Thompson, Chartered have more than 60 years of combined legal experience in family and criminal law, including prenuptial agreements. If you need legal help, contact us today for an initial consultation.