Connecticut Prenup Info
Congratulations on your engagement in scenic Connecticut! If you are considering entering into a prenuptial (or premarital) agreement in this scenic state, there are certain requirements you’ll have to meet in order for that agreement to be deemed valid in Connecticut.
Prenups in Connecticut
Prenuptial agreements can help limit the expense of litigation regarding disputes relevant to the marital estate should one spouse die or should the parties divorce in the future. While you don’t have to visit an attorney to draft a prenup, Prenuptial Agreements must be in writing to be legally valid in Connecticut, and must meet other requirements. Read on for the details!
Connecticut has enacted the Connecticut Premarital Agreement Act (we will refer to this as the “Act”) to govern prenuptial agreements in the state. “Prenups” are also referred to as “Premarital Agreements,” per the Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-36b(1) are defined as an “agreement between prospective spouses made in contemplation of marriage.” Per the Act, a premarital agreement becomes effective upon marriage unless otherwise provided in the agreement. Read the fine print of the CT Premarital Agreement Act here.
A little background
Since 1995, the validity of prenuptial agreements in Connecticut has been governed by the Connecticut Premarital Agreement Act. Prior to the Act, the Connecticut Supreme Court had set forth the standards for determining the validity of a premarital agreement in the case of McHugh v. McHugh, 181 Conn. 482, 436 A.2d 8 (1980). Need some light reading? Check out the entire McHugh case here. You can also read more about CT prenups, straight from the source here.
Connecticut Prenup Terminology
Official name for a prenup: Premarital Agreement
Property that is not marital:Separate Property
Property that is of the marriage:Marital Property
Spousal Support: Alimony
Divorce: Dissolution of Marriage
What CAN you include in a valid CT prenup?
- Separate Property – A CT prenup can specify what property should be considered separate property throughout the marriage not considered marital property.
- Marital Property – A CT prenup can specify what property should be considered marital property of the marriage. Marital property can include assets that were otherwise premarital (if you specify this should be the case, and do not forget about appreciation in value of that separate property), as well as assets acquired after the marriage.
- Alimony – This is AKA “spousal support” and is the support of one spouse by the other spouse in the event of a separation or divorce. Your CT prenuptial agreement can specify whether you and your future spouse will choose to follow the Alimony laws of that state, or whether you will choose to waive this support altogether.
What CAN’T you contract to in a Connecticut prenup?
- You cannot contract to anything in violation of public policy or of a statute imposing a criminal penalty.
- The right of a child to support may not be adversely affected by a premarital agreement. Any provision relating to the care, custody and visitation or other provisions affecting a child shall be subject to judicial review and modification.
Can you amend a Connecticut prenup?
Sec. 46b-36f. Amendment or revocation of premarital agreement after marriage. After marriage, a premarital agreement may be amended or revoked only by a written agreement signed by the parties. The amended agreement or the revocation shall be enforceable without consideration. Read the fine print here.
Straight from the source:
What can you contract to in a Connecticut prenup?
Per Sec. 46b-36d of the Connecticut statute, Parties to a premarital agreement in CT may contract regarding the following:
- The rights and obligations of each of the parties in any of the property of either or both of them whenever and wherever acquired or located;
- The right to buy, sell, use, transfer, exchange, abandon, lease, consume, expend, assign, create a security interest in, mortgage, encumber, dispose of, or otherwise manage and control property;
- The disposition of property upon separation, marital dissolution, death, or the occurrence or nonoccurrence of any other event;
- The modification or elimination of spousal support;
- The making of a will, trust or other arrangement to carry out the provisions of the agreement;
- The ownership rights in and disposition of the death benefit from a life insurance policy;
- The right of either party as a participant or participant’s spouse under a retirement plan;
- The choice of law governing the construction of the agreement; and
Any other matter, including their personal rights and obligations.
Connecticut Prenup Caselaw
McHugh v. McHugh, 181 Conn. 482 (1980)
This is the landmark case which the Connecticut Legislature later codified (turned common law – i.e. judge made law – into statutory law – i.e. laws enacted by the legislature) in the Connecticut Premarital Agreement Act. In this case, the Connecticut Supreme Court established a three prong test for determining whether a challenged prenuptial agreement is enforceable. The test is: (1) was the contract validly entered into; (2) do its terms violate statute or public policy; and (3) were the circumstances of the parties at the time the marriage is dissolved so beyond the contemplation of the parties at the time the contract was entered into as to cause its enforcement to work injustice (i.e. is it unconscionable)? The court went on to explain and provide examples of each prong.
- Is the agreement validly entered into?
While a party may waive their right to property or alimony upon dissolution, the waiver must be knowing and voluntary. Both parties are duty bound to disclose their financial circumstances prior to entering into the agreement, unless the other party has “independent knowledge” of the same.
- Do its terms violate statute or public policy?
As providing support for minor children is statutorily mandated, parties to a prenuptial agreement may not attempt to shirk the duty to support their children via contract.
- Were the circumstances of the parties at the time the marriage dissolved so beyond the contemplation of the parties at the time the contract was entered into?
Where the economic status of parties has changed dramatically between the date of the agreement and the dissolution, the prenuptial agreement may be determined to be unconscionable and therefore, unenforceable.
Read the case yourself, here.
Beyor v. Beyor, 158 Conn. App. 752, 121 A.3d 734 (2015).
Former wife challenged the validity of the couple’s prenuptial agreement arguing that it was unconscionable. Unconscionability generally requires a showing that there was “an absence of meaningful choice on the part of one of the parties together with contract terms which are unreasonably favorable to the other party”. McKenna v. Delente, 123 Conn. App. 146, 158 (2010). In deciding whether the agreement was unconscionable (and therefore invalid), the appellate court looked at the relative positions of the couple both at the time they entered into the agreement and at the time of the divorce.
At the time the couple married, former wife was making approximately $30,000 per year; former husband was making approximately 250,000 per year. At the time of their divorce, former wife had a net worth of approximately $26,000 and former husband was worth approximately 4.5 million. The court ultimately determined that the agreement was not unconscionable. In so deciding, it reasoned that while there was a disparity between the earnings of the couple, that disparity existed both at the time the couple married and at the time of their divorce. Absent an extraordinary and unforeseeable change in the financial situations of the parties, the agreement is not unconscionable. Additionally, the former wife freely entered into the agreement and was represented by counsel at that time. While the court did comment on the former husband’s “chivalry and respect” for his former wife in not providing any economic support, the court conceded that he was not required to do so.
Read the case here!
Bevilacqua v. Bevilacqua, 201 Conn. App. 261 (2020)
The parties had a tumultuous marriage from the get-go. Prior to their wedding, they both voluntarily entered into a prenuptial agreement in which they waived their right to alimony. Former wife initiated divorce proceedings twice but abandoned the process in an attempt to work on and save the marriage. After the first attempted divorce, the parties were involved in a motor vehicle accident in which the former wife sustained substantial injuries. She was unable to return to work due to her injuries. This caused further strain on the marriage and former wife again filed for divorce. After abandoning the proceedings for a second time, the parties finally followed through with the third initiation of dissolution. The trial court awarded the former wife alimony despite the fact that the right to alimony was waived by both parties in the prenuptial agreement. The appellate court determined that the car accident which prevented the wife from returning to work was “far beyond the contemplation of the parties when they executed the [agreement]. The fact that … the [former wife] cannot earn what she disclosed her income to be [when the parties married] makes the enforcement of the [waiver of alimony] unconscionable.”
Read the case here
Peterson v. Sykes-Peterson, 133 Conn. App. 660 (2012)
The parties’ prenuptial agreement contained a “sunset provision” which stated that the agreement would become “null and void” upon their seventh wedding anniversary. The seventh anniversary of the parties’ marriage was July 14, 2007. On March 1, 2007, divorce proceedings were commenced. The plaintiff argued that the sunset provision was only meant to expire if the parties were still happily married at the time of their seventh wedding anniversary, rather than in the midst of divorce proceedings. However, the trial and appellate courts disagreed as the language in their prenuptial agreement was not conditional on anything other than reaching their seventh anniversary. The fact that their anniversary occurred during the pendency of their divorce was irrelevant as the divorce was not yet finalized. The appellate court also commented that “sunset provisions” are common in Connecticut prenuptial agreements and are not “contrary to public policy”, nor do they incentivize divorce.
Read the case here
Winchester v. McCue, 91 Conn. App. 721 (2005)
Upon commencement of divorce proceedings, the former wife challenged the validity of the couple’s prenuptial agreement arguing that the former husband had not sufficiently disclosed his financial status. Parties to a prenuptial agreement have a duty to disclose the amount, character, and value of their individually owned property, absent the other’s independent knowledge. This is essentially a prerequisite to a waiver of rights to property/alimony. The appellate court determined that the former wife was sufficiently aware of former husband’s financial circumstances and therefore freely and intelligently waived her right to any income, property, or alimony. The parties dated for several years before they were married, shared expenses, and “became knowledgeable of the other’s standard of living and spending habits.” Failure to disclose financial information in the prenuptial agreement is not fatal so long as the other party has “independent knowledge” of the same. In reaching this conclusion, the court also considered the fact that the former wife is the one who initially requested the prenuptial agreement, both parties negotiated the agreement through their attorneys, and completed at least seven drafts before signing the final version.
Read the case here
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