Utah Premarital Agreement Information Page
Congratulations on your upcoming wedding in the state with the best snow on Earth (That’s Utah, if you didn’t already know)! Before hitting the slopes, attending the Sundance Film Festival, or hiking through one of the many national parks, make sure you get your prenuptial agreement ironed out. It’s a piece of cake! Keep reading to learn about Utah’s prenup laws.
Utah Prenuptial Agreements
Utah courts refer to a prenuptial agreement as a “premarital agreement.” An antenuptial agreement, prenuptial agreement, and premarital agreement are synonymous. All three terms represent a legal contract drafted between two spouses before marriage. A premarital agreement is only valid after the marriage takes place. The Utah premarital agreement statute and case law outline the rules and requirements for a valid agreement. A Utah premarital agreement may include alimony modifications, property division, insurance policies, and more. On the other hand, a prenuptial agreement in Utah cannot limit or contract around child support, child custody, or matters violating public policy.
What to include in a valid Utah Prenup
For a Utah premarital agreement to be considered valid, you should consider the following:
- It must be in writing,
- Must be executed voluntarily,
- Must be written in contemplation of marriage (i.e., you must enter this agreement with the goal of an upcoming marriage)
- It must be signed by both parties (HelloPrenup recommends initialing each page),
- There must be full disclosure of financial obligations and property
What to exclude from your Utah prenup
To ensure that your premarital agreement comports with Utah law, do not include:
- Terms involving child support,
- Terms involving child custody, or
- Provisions that violate public policy.
Also important to note: both spouses must sign all prenuptial agreements voluntarily and with financial disclosure.
Coercion and the validity of prenuptial agreements
La Juana and Clay met via newspaper ad in 1986. Clay flew his own airplane out to meet La Juana in Texas, where she worked as a nurse’s aide for $3.50 an hour. Clay asked her to marry him and move back to Utah just five days later. He told her she could quit her job because he would take care of her. La Juana agreed, and they flew back to Utah and lived happily ever after until Clay, unfortunately, died in an airplane crash. At the time of Clay’s death, he had about $1.5 million in assets, including airplanes, commercial real estate, cars, retirement funds, and investment accounts.
Before the marriage, Clay presented a prenup to La Juana. The prenup stated that if they were still married at the time of his death, she would receive 50% of his estate. Clay’s only other heirs were his nieces and nephews. La Juana typed up the prenup herself and signed it. She was never provided any of his financial information before signing the prenup, but nonetheless, she signed it.
After Clay’s death, La Juana requested to become the sole heir of his estate. Clay’s nieces and nephews had other plans; they also requested to receive their part of the estate. La Juana claimed that the prenup should be thrown out because she was coerced to sign it. She claimed that she had to move from Texas to Utah and quit her job to marry Clay and that she could not marry him without signing the prenup. The court disagreed with La Juana and said that she voluntarily signed the agreement of her own free will. She understood the contents of the contract and agreed to be bound by its terms. Thus, the prenuptial agreement was valid and enforceable.
The moral of the story is that if you want to throw out a prenup based on coercion, you must prove that you did not sign the prenup voluntarily. You need to claim more than just, “I moved to a different state for my spouse, quit my job, and had no other choice but to sign the prenup,” to prove you were coerced to sign a prenup.
Matter of Estate of Beesley, 883 P.2d 1343 (1994)
Statutes & terms to understand for a Utah Prenup
*Before diving into the deep end, let’s go through some terminology and phrases that will be used in your prenup – that way, you don’t go cross-eyed trying to decipher the legal jargon and miss something.
Official term for divorce in Utah: DivorceWas this prenup fraudulent?
A 2015 case from a Court of Appeals in Utah discussed what fraud *doesn’t* look like when executing a prenuptial agreement. Husband and Wife executed a prenup that required all the property owned before the marriage to remain separate. While the couple did not amass many assets during the marriage, the husband’s most significant interest in his family’s landscaping business was the most significant asset.
At the time of the divorce, Wife wanted to throw out the prenup to allow access to Husband’s premarital assets, such as the interest in the family business. She claimed that the prenup was fraudulently executed because Husband did not disclose his finances, and she never had knowledge of the worth of his business and other minor assets.
The court disagreed with Wife and declared that fraudulence in a prenuptial agreement is not determined by whether there was financial disclosure or not. A fraudulently executed prenup is determined by falsely representing material information knowingly. In this case, Wife had waived her right to disclosure, so financial disclosure was not actually required here.
The moral of the story is? Always include a financial disclosure in your prenup (or a waiver of such), and don’t knowingly misrepresent material information in your prenup otherwise, it will be thrown out for fraud!
Keyes v. Keyes, 351 P.3d 90 (Utah App. 2015)
Official term for divorce in Utah: Divorce
A divorce occurs when two people, who have been legally married, begin the court process to end the marriage. Utah is one of the few fault-based divorce states. A fault-based divorce means that you can file for divorce on the grounds that one spouse “did something wrong.” The grounds for a fault-based divorce in Utah include:
- Impotency at the time of marriage,
- One spouse willfully deserted the other for more than one year,
- One spouse willfully neglected the other,
- Habitual drunkenness,
- Felony conviction,
- Cruel treatment, or
- Incurable insanity.
However, suppose none of these grounds apply. In that case, you can still claim a no-fault-based divorce because there are irreconcilable differences, or you have been living separately and apart for three consecutive years.
How to end a marriage in Utah
There are two ways to end a marriage in Utah: annulment or divorce. An annulment ends a marriage that was invalid from the start. For example, one party may have been too young to consent to marriage, or if the marriage was between siblings, it is an invalid marriage, and you may qualify for an annulment. You may also file for legal separation (in Utah, it’s known as “separate maintenance”), which does not end the marriage but achieves everything that a divorce would, such as child custody, property division, and support payments.
Only one party needs to begin the process of ending a marriage (but don’t get us wrong, it takes two to make it work!) If one party wants to end the marriage, it is within their sole right to do so, and the other non-participating party does not have to agree to begin the process. If a non-participating spouse does not partake in the proceedings, a default judgment will be entered and force the divorce to proceed.
Each state has residency requirements that must be fulfilled before you can divorce in that state. In Utah, these are the residency requirements:
- You or your spouse must be a resident of Utah for at least three months and
- You or your spouse must be a resident of the county where the divorce is filed.
Official term for property not considered part of the marital estate in Utah: Separate property
Property is either considered separate property or marital property. Generally, separate property in Utah is property owned before marriage and kept separate during the marriage. It may also include property gifted or inherited by one spouse during the marriage. On the other hand, marital property is typically acquired during the marriage. If originally separate property but used for the benefit of the marriage, then it may also become marital property. If this is not to your liking, you will need to specify it clearly in a legal document otherwise.
Mixing separate property with marital property
Marital property is shared property subject to division in the divorce; separate property is not shared and is considered “separate.” In Utah, the marital property is usually divided equally between the divorcing spouses, and separate property, such as inheritances, is awarded to the separate spouses. What happens if the separate property is commingled? In other words, what happens when one spouse uses their separate property for the benefit of the marriage, such as paying off a marital house mortgage? The answer is “it depends.”
A case from 2011 talks a little bit about this specific scenario. Husband and Wife separated, and after the separation, Husband received an inheritance of approximately $45,000. He then proceeded to pay off the mortgage in full with the inheritance. Wife argued that by him paying off the mortgage with his inheritance (i.e., separate property), it became marital property because it was used to benefit the marriage (i.e., comingled). Thus, arguing that she should receive a portion of the $45,000.
The Utah court disagreed with Wife and said that the inheritance was not commingled because all their assets were already separated at this point. The inheritance went into his separate bank account, and then he paid off the mortgage. It did not become so intertwined with the marital assets that it was untraceable.
What’s the lesson here? Separate property is separate property until it’s not. Separate property may become “comingled” if it is used for the benefit of the marriage, such as paying off a marital home mortgage.
Jacobsen v. Jacobsen, 257 P.3d 478 (Utah App. 2011)
Official term for spousal support in Utah: Alimony
In Utah, spousal support is called “alimony, ” the financial support ordered by a court to be paid by one spouse to the other. Alimony may be awarded during the divorce proceedings or after the divorce is final. A Utah judge may award alimony if there is a financial need and the other spouse has the financial means to pay. The judge will look at various factors to determine whether alimony is appropriate. These factors include but are not limited to each spouse’s employment history, ability to work, the length of the marriage, whether one spouse has custody of children, whether one spouse contributed to the other spouse’s increase in skills, and more.
You may include provisions in your prenuptial agreement limiting or eliminating alimony. Most of the time, the court will uphold provisions modifying alimony. However, if the provision would force one spouse to receive public assistance, the court may ignore your condition regarding alimony and require alimony payment.
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