Connecticut has us dreaming of scenic fall weddings. If you are too, check out all the hacks and resources we have compiled to help you craft your perfect prenup.
Prenups in Connecticut
So, should you have a prenup? Don’t worry; we’re here to help! Prenups are great planning tools and help you and your fiancé take control of your future! Prenups can limit litigation exposure and expense should a dispute arise regarding divorce. They can also be used if a spouse dies. Want some good news? You don’t even need an attorney to draft your prenup! However, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure that your agreement is legally valid. So, keep on reading!
Let’s start with the law that governs prenuptial agreements. In Connecticut, this would be the Connecticut Premarital Agreement Act (the “Act”). In Connecticut, prenups are officially referred to as “premarital agreements (don’t worry, they mean the same thing!). In the Act, specifically § 46b-36b(1) of the Act, a premarital agreement is defined as an “agreement between prospective spouses made in contemplation of marriage.” Typically, in Connecticut, the prenup springs to life as soon as you enter into the marriage unless you specify differently in the agreement. Read the fine print of the CT Premarital Agreement Act here.
A history of Connecticut prenups
So, we’ve already talked a bit about the Connecticut Premarital Agreement Act (the “Act”) but let’s go a little further. The Act has been governing Connecticut prenups since 1995. Prior to that time, parties looked to an important Connecticut Supreme Court Case for guidance. Read on for all the details!
McHugh v. McHugh, 181 Conn. 482 (1980)
This landmark case was the precursor for the Connecticut Premarital Agreement Act. Specifically, the Connecticut Supreme Court developed a three-part test aimed at testing the validity and enforceability of prenups. The test is as follows:
- Was the agreement validly entered into?
Parties may waive rights in their prenuptial agreements. However, the waiver must be both “voluntary and knowing”.
- Do its terms violate statute or public policy?
Example: you cannot contract away a child’s right to receive child support.
- 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?
If the circumstances, such as the economic status of the parties, change drastically, enforcement of the contract may be unconscionable.
Connecticut Prenup Terminology
Official name for a prenup: Premarital Agreement
Non marital property: 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 – Your prenup can specify which property you would like to keep as separate property (AKA non marital property)
- Marital Property – Though prenups often focus on what preparty should be classified as separate, your CT prenup can also specify any property that you and your fiancé would like to be considered as marital property. This can include property obtained prior to or during marriage (don’t forget about the appreciation in value!).
- Alimony – You can use your prenuptial agreement to specify your preference regarding alimony. Some options include completely waiving your right to alimony or maybe just limiting it. You can also opt to follow Connecticut alimony laws.
What CAN’T you include in a Connecticut prenup?
- Your prenup cannot contain any provisions which violate public policy or any law which imposes a criminal penalty.
- You cannot contract away or otherwise diminish a child’s right to child support. The court is entitled to modify any provisions related to child support and custody.
A tale of makeup and breakup
Bevilacqua v. Bevilacqua, 201 Conn. App. 261 (2020)
This relationship was a rocky one. Divorce proceedings were initiated not once, not twice, but three times! But let’s go back to the beginning. Prior to the couple’s wedding, they executed a premarital agreement in which they both waived their right to alimony. During the course of the marriage, the couple was involved in a car accident. Wife sustained serious injuries and was unable to return to work. Even though both spouses waived their right to alimony in the prenup, the court awarded the wife alimony regardless. Why? The court felt that the accident resulted in circumstances that were far beyond the parties’ contemplation when they executed the agreement. The fact that the wife could no longer work and provide for herself made the prenup’s waiver of alimony unconscionable. (Check out prong three of the McHugh case discussed above!)
Read the case 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.
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.
Here are some real-life Connecticut prenup cases
Beyor v. Beyor, 158 Conn. App. 752, 121 A.3d 734 (2015).
This couple had a significant wealth disparity when they married. Former wife was earning approximately $30,000 per year and former husband was making around $250,000 per year. When the couple divorced, wife challenged the validity of the prenup. She argued that it was unconscionable as it did not provide for her fully. The court disagreed. In doing so, it compared the couple’s financial situation at the time they married to the time they divorced. The significant disparity was present during both periods. When the couple divorced, former wife had a net worth of approximately $26,000, while former husband’s net worth was around $4.5 million. Therefore, there was no significant or unforeseeable change. Additionally, the former wife freely entered into the agreement and voluntarily waived her rights.
Check out the full case here!
Peterson v. Sykes-Peterson, 133 Conn. App. 660 (2012)
This couple included a “sunset provision” in their prenup. This means that the prenup becomes null and void at a certain milestone. In this case, that milestone was their seventh wedding anniversary. Unfortunately, several months prior to their seventh anniversary, the couple split and initiated divorce proceedings. Because the couple had not officially divorced before their seventh anniversary, the sunset provision went into effect and voided the prenup. Despite the couple’s arguments to the contrary, there was nothing in the prenup that conditioned the provision on whether or not they had separated. They were technically married when they reached their anniversary and therefore were bound by that provision in their prenup.
Read the case here
Winchester v. McCue, 91 Conn. App. 721 (2005)
The parties in this case dated for several years before they were married, shared expenses, and “became knowledgeable of the other’s standard of living and spending habits.” They executed a prenup prior to their wedding. However, when the couple split, the wife challenged the prenup’s validity, arguing that the former husband did not adequately disclose his finances. The general rule is that parties must disclose the amount, character, and value of their separate property and assets unless the other party has “independent knowledge.” Based on their courtship and the fact that the agreement was thoroughly negotiated with the assistance of attorneys, the prenup was valid.
Check out all the details here!
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