Prenuptial Agreements in Wyoming

Wyoming law does not permit child custody and support to be included in a prenuptial agreement.

Engaged couples are often so transfixed by the excitement of their upcoming weddings and the prospect of married life, they fail to appreciate that marriage is a civil contract. But it is in the best interests of all engaged people to consider whether a prenuptial agreement would be a useful solution for the unique legal and financial facts and circumstances of their lives.

What Is a Prenuptial Agreement?

A prenuptial agreement is a legally binding contract that is made with a view toward what will happen to the spouses' respective property if there is a divorce or a death. Prenuptial agreements are primarily concerned with the division of property, which is defined as any interest in real property (like land or buildings) or personal property (tangible objects like jewelry and automobiles or abstract objects like retirement accounts).

Prenuptial agreements are also known as premarital or antenuptial agreements in some jurisdictions.

Who Should Get a Prenuptial Agreement?

If any of the following scenarios apply, couples should consider getting a prenuptial agreement:

  • One or both spouses are bringing major debt into the marriage.
  • One or both spouses are bringing property into the marriage.
  • One spouse is much wealthier or poorer than the other.
  • One or both spouses are remarrying.
  • One or both spouses have children.

This list is non-exclusive. If you have any doubts about whether you should enter into a prenuptial agreement, contact an experienced Wyoming family law attorney for more advice.

What Issues Can a Prenuptial Agreement Cover?

Prenuptial agreements in Wyoming can include some or all of the following issues:

  • the rights and obligations of each of the spouses in any property they own, regardless of when the property was acquired
  • the right to buy, sell, use, transfer, dispose of, or otherwise manage and control certain property
  • the disposition of property upon separation, divorce, or death
  • the modification or elimination of spousal support (alimony)
  • the making of a will or trust
  • ownership rights in and disposition of death benefits from a life insurance policy
  • the "choice of law" (meaning, which state's law will be used to analyze the prenuptial agreement—Wyoming or some other state) used by courts to interpret the agreement, and
  • any other personal rights and obligations that don't violate Wyoming's public policy or criminal laws.

Can a Prenuptial Agreement Determine Child Custody or Support in Wyoming?

Wyoming law does not permit child custody and support to be included in a prenuptial agreement. In fact, prenuptial agreements that include provisions for child custody and support might be declared void (unenforceable) by a family law judge. This is because the family courts are bound to apply the statutory guidelines to calculate child support, and to apply the evidence to the "best interest factors" that will determine custody and visitation, at the time custody and support are being decided.

This doesn't mean that a prenuptial agreement can't contain an agreement about child support and custody. If the parties divorce and decide to abide by the terms of their prenuptial agreement, then they can self-enforce provisions about child custody and support. However, if they disagree and wind up in family court, a judge may give little to no consideration to what the prenuptial agreement says about these topics, or may even strike down the whole agreement.

How Can I Ensure my Prenuptial Agreement Is Enforceable in Wyoming?

The Uniform Premarital Agreement Act ("UPAA") was initially developed in 1983 by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws in an attempt to harmonize the law surrounding prenuptial agreements and to ensure legal conformity across the fifty states. To date, most but not all states have adopted the UPAA. Wyoming is one of the states that has not adopted the UPAA. Instead of following the UPAA, Wyoming has its own rules which are written into the state statutes. For a prenuptial agreement to be legally valid in Wyoming, all of the following requirements must be satisfied:

  • The agreement must be written and signed by both parties. Oral (spoken) agreements are not enforceable.
  • The language of the contract must be clear and unambiguous, meaning it has to be straightforward. The language must be clear enough that the intent of the parties is obvious to a reader.
  • The consideration (meaning, the thing of value that's given by both parties to support a contract) is the marriage itself, and once the parties are married, they are bound by the agreement.

Family law judges might strike down a prenuptial agreement if it's "fundamentally unfair." There are two types of fundamental unfairness: procedural and substantive. Procedural unfairness means that one spouse didn't sign the agreement voluntarily, but only signed because the other spouse used force, manipulation, or threats to secure the signature. For instance, if one would-be spouse presents the other would-be spouse with a prenuptial agreement on the day of the wedding, that would be considered procedurally unfair and a court might not enforce it.

Substantive unfairness, on the other hand, means that an agreement is so grossly unfair that it's "unconscionable," meaning that the agreement shocks the conscience. For example, if one spouse is very wealthy and the other very poor, and the prenuptial agreement would leave the poor spouse even more destitute, a court is likely to strike it down.

Can I Change a Prenuptial Agreement After Marriage?

Yes. If you decide to change your prenuptial agreement after you marry, it will be known as a "post-nuptial" agreement. All of the same rules above will apply.

If you have questions about prenuptial agreements, you should contact a local family law attorney for advice.

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