Iowa law permits couples to enact premarital agreements (also known as prenuptial agreements or antenuptial agreements) prior to marriage. Premarital agreements are becoming increasingly more common and enables couples to come to a mutual understanding of the distribution of property prior to the marriage. The enforceability of premarital agreements in Iowa are governed by the Iowa Uniform Premarital Agreement Act. Premarital agreements are essentially contracts, although their requirements for enforceability in Iowa vary slightly than other contracts. Most importantly, there is no such thing as an oral premarital agreement. The agreement must be in writing and signed by both parties. Unlike other contracts, the agreement is also enforceable without consideration.
A Premarital Agreement in Iowa can help resolve many issues, including property rights. In Iowa, all property and income acquired during the marriage is considered marital property. Absent a premarital agreement, all marital property is subject to division by the courts during a divorce. A premarital agreement is a great choice for individuals who have their own businesses, retirement accounts, or other assets. They are also strongly recommended for individuals who have children from prior relationships, and who want to protect their children’s rights to property and inheritance.
In addition to property rights and distribution, the parties are also able to agree to the making of a will, trust, or other arrangement to carry out the provisions of the agreement, the ownership rights in the disposition of the death benefit from a life insurance policy, the choice of law governing the construction of the agreement, and any other matter not in violation of public policy or a statute imposing a criminal penalty.
Unlike other states, Iowa does not permit any provision that adversely affects the rights of an individual to receive spousal support. A reduction or elimination of spousal support provision will be unenforceable. Including such an invalid provision will not render the agreement unenforceable, but an Iowa Court will strike that provision from the rest of the validly executed agreement.
The parties to a premarital agreement are also unable to make any determination that adversely affects child support. This is because the children are not parties to the agreement, and their rights cannot be altered. The parties may only contract as to child support if the agreement provides support above the statutory guidelines. Similarly, the parties are unable to include any agreement as to custody in their premarital agreement. Custody is a determination that must be made at the time of the divorce using the best interests of the child standard.
After marriage, the parties may also decide to revoke the premarital agreement. This is done by both parties entering into a separate agreement that revokes the prior premarital agreement, and is signed by both parties. A party who wants to revoke an agreement unilaterally, or not have it govern the divorce proceedings, must prove that the agreement was either not executed voluntarily, executed under duress, or is unconscionable. A court will find the agreement unenforceable if it was given close to the wedding date, and without giving the other party time to review the agreement and retain an attorney if they so choose. A court will find the agreement unconscionable if there was not a fair and reasonable disclosure of the property or financial obligations of the other party. To make sure that a premarital agreement is enforceable it is important to make sure there are not any provisions that violate public policy, that it is given to the other party far enough in advance to the wedding date, and that there has been a proper disclosure of all assets and liabilities.