What is the Uniform Premarital and Marital Agreements Act?

Adopted by 26 states, the Uniform Premarital and Marital Agreements Actdrafted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws in 1983helped bring consistency to contracts signed by two parties entering a marriage. The act allows the parties to a prenuptial agreement to choose which state's statutes for marital law will cover the agreement.

Key Takeaways

  • The Uniform Premarital and Marital Agreements Act is a multi-state law enacted to determine when and how prenuptial agreements should be enforced. 
  • The act allows parties to a prenup to choose which state's marriage laws apply, in terms of items such as division of property and spousal support.
  • The act is only enforceable if all parties to a premarital agreement enter voluntarily, and if the removal of spousal support would not make the other party reliant on government assistance.

Understanding the Uniform Premarital and Marital Agreements Act

The Uniform Premarital and Marital Agreements Act states that parties should be free to create financial terms in which they both agree—with some limitations. It makes a review of minimal standards of fairness by the state mandatory based on circumstances at the time of the agreement. After the review, a state can refuse to enforce an agreement that puts one party in financial jeopardy. The act also addresses burden of proof and establishes when rights at divorce or death might be waived or modified.

The aim of the act is to provide courts with flexibility in making rulings on family law cases and also give individuals who are considering signing a premarital agreement some confidence that the agreement they enter into will be enforceable and how it will be enforced.

The act focuses on premarital and marital agreements (or postnuptial agreements). It treats postnuptial agreements with the same requirements and principles that it treats premarital agreements. It's important to know that some states apply different legal standards to each, including higher burdens being placed on postnuptial agreements.

Prenups and the Uniform Premarital and Marital Agreements Act

Most commonly, prenuptial agreements address division of property, spousal support and child custody should divorce occur. They may also include provisions for forfeiting assets in the event of adultery. Prenups are usually requested by the party that stands to lose the most money or property in the case of divorce, especially in states that follow the Community Property law—each spouse is entitled to half of everything acquired during the marriage.

A couple can choose any state in which one of the parties lives or plans to live or the state in which the couple will be married to have a prenup enforced. Because this act has not been passed in all states, parties to a prenuptial contract are also limited to choosing only the states that have passed the Uniform Premarital and Marital Agreements Act.

The main advantage of choosing to have a prenuptial agreement fall under the jurisdiction of a state that has passed the Uniform Premarital and Marital Agreements Act is that many of these states have comprehensive provisions and statutes to resolve the issues associated with prenuptial agreements, such as estate planning, division of property, alimony, financial assets and custody. In other states, rulings on various situations may be less stable due to the fact that some states base their rulings on case law.