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Eugene Nassif

Prenuptial agreements are not just for the wealthy. They offer a way for couples to plan ahead for uncertainties and avoid future conflicts, should something happen with their marriages. Around a third of people say they would consider a premarital agreement prior to marriage.

This article addresses how prenuptial agreements work in Iowa. We cover the following questions about prenuptial agreements in Iowa:

  • What is a prenuptial agreement?
  • What is a prenuptial agreement?
  • What can a prenuptial agreement cover in Iowa?
  • In Iowa, can a prenuptial agreement determine child custody and support?
  • How do I make sure my prenuptial agreement will be enforced in Iowa?
  • Under what circumstances will a court throw out a prenuptial agreement?

What is a prenuptial agreement?

In short, a prenuptial or premarital agreement is a contract between two people who are getting married. The agreement determines how the peoples’ property will be handled during the marriage and what will happen to it upon divorce. The agreement becomes effective once the marriage happens.

Why should I get a prenuptial agreement drafted?

Statistically, approximately half of all marriages end in divorce. The divorce process is often lengthy and costly with both spouses fighting tooth and nail to secure as much of the finances as possible. All the while, increased legal fees and court costs eat up the couple’s assets.

Couples who often have prenuptial agreements drafted decide between themselves what they their financial situations to look like should they get divorced. Studies show that having these conversations and planning ahead can promote marriage stability and decrease uncertainty about each spouse’s financial future. It allows couples to focus on the emotional connection in their relationship.  

Prenuptial agreements are especially important to consider if the parties to a marriage enter into the marriage with assets such as real estate, retirement accounts or businesses that they would not want to lose should they separate from their spouse. Additionally, people with children from prior marriages might want to consider them to protect any inheritance the children. Specifically, when one parent stays at home and takes care of children, having security of knowing what the stay at home spouse will receive should anything go wrong can provide much needed security.  

What can a prenuptial agreement cover in Iowa?

Prenuptial agreements in Iowa can cover the following issues:

  • What happens to the death benefits of any life insurance policy owned by either spouse;
  • Whether a spouse must make a will, trust, or other arrangement to carry out the provisions of the agreement;
  • The rights each spouse has regarding property owned by either spouse;
  • Each spouse’s ability to buy, sell, transfer, or control a property owned by either spouse;
  • What happens to all property upon separation, divorce, death or one spouse, or some other major event;
  • Which state’s law will be used to interpret the agreement; and
  • Anything else the couple would like, within legal grounds.  

In Iowa, can a prenuptial agreement determine child custody and support?

In Iowa, as in post states, a prenuptial agreement can never determine child support or child custody. The rationale behind this is that child support is support for the child, not the parents. A couple can’t restrict a child’s future rights by a contract. While parents may agree to a sum for child support upon separation or divorce, the court still ultimately approves the agreement, ensuring it meets the child’s needs.  

Additionally, courts decide child custody at the time parents separate. Child custody is determined based on the best interests of the child. It’s impossible for parents to be able to decide what is best for the child at some future date should parents get divorced.  

Any attempt to set child support or custody within a prenuptial agreement will be thrown out by a court.  

How do I make sure my prenuptial agreement will be enforced in Iowa?

Iowa follows the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act, along with a majority of states. It is a standard set of rules regarding premarital agreements across most states. Iowa prenuptial agreements must be in writing and signed by both future spouses.  Exchanging financial information in the agreements isn’t required. Both spouses will need to sign any additional documents necessary to carry out the terms of the agreement which could include wills, trusts, insurance policies, etc.

Both spouses are typically given an opportunity to review the agreement with an attorney. It is required that both spouses are given the opportunity. Furthermore, one attorney can’t represent or act as counsel for both parties. If a spouse is given an opportunity to have an attorney review the agreement and decides not to, the agreement will remain enforceable. The opportunity to review is not treated lightly. A prenuptial agreement can’t be sprung onto another spouse, giving them an unreasonable deadline to execute an agreement. An example is one spouse having a prenuptial agreement then springing it on the partner a few days prior to the wedding. In circumstances like that, a judge would likely throw that prenuptial agreement out.

Finally, should spouses want to change the terms of their agreement after marriage or outright revoke it, they need to put the modification or revocation in writing and sign it.

Under what circumstances will a court throw out a prenuptial agreement?

Generally, courts will throw out prenuptial agreements only in limited circumstances. This includes circumstances where:

  • One spouse doesn’t voluntarily sign the agreement;
  • The agreement is determined to be “unconscionable” when it is signed;
  • A spouse didn’t disclose their assets and debts to the other when the agreement was signed and the other spouse didn’t have or couldn’t have that financial information. In other words, one spouse hid financials from the other.

The court will decide whether an agreement is unconscionable. This means that the bargaining power is so unfair that one spouse is essentially getting a fundamentally unfair deal that they had no choice to take. The court will only find a prenuptial agreement is unconscionable in extreme circumstances. Simply having different financial circumstances will not make the agreement unconscionable.  

Most of the time, in a prenuptial agreement, both spouses will list their assets and debts in the prenuptial agreement. A spouse can waive their right to receive this financial information, but courts are often skeptical of these agreements. A court can invalidate a prenuptial agreement if spouses waive their rights to receive financial information.

Courts are hesitant of prenuptial agreements that completely eliminate one spouse’s obligations to the other upon divorce. While it’s technically legal, the courts remain skeptical when one spouse signs away their rights.  

In circumstances where a court does decide certain provisions in the prenuptial agreement aren’t enforceable, the court does not have to throw out the entire contract. The court can throw out individual provisions, keeping the rest of the agreement.  

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.


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