Utah premarital agreements: The basics

Prenuptial agreements are commonly used to predetermine matters of property and money division at divorce or death.

Prenuptial agreements, called premarital agreements in Utah law, may have a questionable reputation in part because they seem to lessen the romance. For example, a partner can appear selfish if he or she asks his or her partner before marriage to sign away future rights to property and money. But in reality, it can be a wise move from a financial planning standpoint. It also can actually strengthen the relationship because it requires disclosure of property and debt, and sparks detailed discussion of financial concerns and goals.

Utah prenuptial agreements

A premarital agreement is a contract between two people who plan to marry that becomes valid upon marriage. Some of the provisions of Utah's Uniform Premarital Agreement Act:

  • The agreement must be written and signed by both.
  • The agreement can control money, property, alimony, life insurance and anything else as long as the provision does not violate public policy or a criminal law that imposes a penalty for violation.
  • The agreement cannot impact the rights of a child concerning matters of support, health care costs, health insurance or child care.
  • The agreement can be modified or cancelled by a written, signed agreement during marriage.
  • A prenuptial agreement may be unenforceable in certain circumstances involving involuntary signing, fraud, and nondisclosure of property or debt.
  • If a premarital agreement restricts alimony in a way that makes the would-be recipient eligible for public assistance at separation or divorce, the other party may be required to pay enough support to prevent that eligibility, despite the agreement.

Utah marital property

Prenuptial agreements often deal with matters of property, money and debt division at death, divorce, separation or any other chosen event. It helps to understand the use of a premarital agreement when you first consider how property and debt is normally divided in Utah divorce.

Property owned by married people is either separate property or marital property. Separate property is that owned by only one of them because it was his or hers before the marriage or it was a gift or inheritance. Normally, separate property remains the property of the owner in a divorce.

The rest of the property is the marital estate, including acquisitions and income of either or both during the marriage. In divorce, Utah law provides that marital property and debts are to be equitably divided. This does not necessarily mean a 50-50 division. Basically, equitable division means a fair division considering the circumstances of the parties, including contributions to the marriage.

Marital debt is also divided equitably between the spouses. Like property division, equitable division of debt is not necessarily down the middle if that would be unfair. While Utah courts have no formula, one approach used is to divide debt in proportion to the parties' respective incomes.

A related issue is the granting of alimony, payment of support from one ex-spouse to the other after divorce according to the divorce decree. Alimony is based on one partner's ability to pay and the financial need of the recipient. Spousal support can be part of the overall plan of property division.

Use of premarital agreements in financial matters

People often use a prenuptial agreement to change what the law would otherwise provide. For example, it can change the nature of an asset from separate to marital or vice versa, assign certain debt to one spouse or predetermine matters of property ownership and division.

The attorneys at Brown Law LLC with offices in Salt Lake City and Orem, Utah, represent clients in all aspects of prenuptial agreements, including counsel, drafting, negotiation, review and related litigation.