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Issues Regarding the Enforcement of Premarital Agreements in Iowa

What Is a Premarital Agreement?

A premarital agreement is a contract that prospective newlyweds enter into before they get married. Also known as a “prenuptial agreement” or “prenup,” premarital agreements let couples figure out issues such as the disposition of marital property during marriage and when the marriage ends due to the death of a spouse or divorce. However, premarital agreements can also cover a broad range of issues.

Under Iowa Code § 596.5, a premarital agreement may contain provisions addressing:

  1. The couple’s rights and obligations regarding marital and nonmarital property
  2. The use, management, and control of marital property
  3. Property division upon divorce or the death of a spouse
  4. Creating an estate plan to effectuate premarital agreement terms
  5. Ownership rights regarding death benefits from life insurance policies
  6. What state law governs how courts will interpret the agreement
  7. Other matters that do not violate public policy

Enforcement of Premarital Agreements

Under Iowa Code § 596.4, “a premarital agreement must be in writing and signed by both prospective spouses. It is enforceable without consideration other than the marriage. Both parties to the agreement shall execute all documents necessary to enforce the agreement.” Although the basic formalities to create a valid premarital agreement are relatively simple, and straight forward, specific provisions can be unenforceable under certain circumstances.

According to Iowa Code § 596.5(1), a premarital agreement is not enforceable to bind a party if they can prove the following circumstances:

  1. They did not voluntarily enter into the agreement
  2. The agreement was fundamentally unconscionable
  3. The other party did not provide a fair and reasonable disclosure of their property or financial obligations, and their spouse did not have adequate knowledge of such issues

A premarital is unenforceable due to unconscionability in two different respects. A prenuptial agreement can be procedurally unconscionable if the process of negotiating, drafting, and developing it was unfair. Iowa courts have held that an agreement is procedurally unconscionable if a party employed “sharp practices[,] the use of fine print and convoluted language” in conjunction with a party’s “lack of understanding and inequality of bargaining power.” A premarital agreement is substantively unconscionable if the terms are so one-sided that enforcement would be excessively oppressive or harsh.

Additionally, courts evaluate premarital agreements covering family support obligations under more scrutiny than other provisions. Under Iowa Code §596.5(2), “the right of a spouse or child to support shall not be adversely affected by a premarital agreement.”

Consult The Law Offices of Mark R. Hinshaw, PLC Today

If you have questions as to whether a premarital agreement is appropriate for you and your prospective spouse, you should speak with a knowledgeable attorney from The Law Offices of Mark R. Hinshaw, PLC. Attorneys Mark Hinshaw and Stephen Humke have years of experience handling various domestic relations and matrimonial issues, including premarital agreements.

For a free case evaluation exploring your legal rights and options, call (515) 200-7571 or contact us online today.

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