A premarital agreement, sometimes called a prenuptial agreement, is a contract that two people enter into before they get married and use to settle some of the financial matters they may confront during their lives together. Premarital agreements cannot address issues related to the parties’ children, nor may they include actions or activities that are illegal. Massachusetts residents should be aware that premarital agreements, whether deemed valid or invalid, can affect the outcomes of divorce proceedings.

Valid premarital agreements are those that do not contain prohibited content and that demonstrate the true agreement of the parties concerning certain topics. A valid premarital agreement may truncate divorce proceedings to the extent that certain decisions, often concerning property and money, have been addressed therein. When parties to a divorce have executed a valid premarital agreement they have already addressed certain divorce-related matters and settled them.

Similarly, when parties to a divorce have in place an invalid premarital agreement, issues that they may have believed to have been settled may be reopened for negotiations. When a premarital agreement is invalidated due to duress, execution errors or other defects, it may be thrown out completely or in part and any matters that had been settled in the defective parts must be reconsidered during the divorce.

Premarital agreements can serve important roles in divorce proceedings for Massachusetts residents, but when they are invalid they do not serve the purposes that they were intended to fulfill. The presence of a premarital agreement between the parties to a divorce can change the course of their marital dissolution, so it is important to ensure the premarital agreement is legally sound.