Minnesota law recognizes the right of the parties to a marriage to rewrite the laws concerning marital dissolution and, instead, contract concerning their rights and obligations should their marriage fail. This can be done in one of two ways. If the parties wish to enter into an agreement prior to their marriage, they will execute a prenuptial agreement. If the parties wish to enter into such an agreement after the date of marriage, they will execute a postnuptial agreement. These two documents are treated very similarly under the law, so they will be discussed collectively here. However, it is critically important to note that a postnuptial agreement is not valid unless both parties to the agreement are represented by an attorney. The involvement of a lawyer is strongly encouraged when drafting a prenuptial agreement, but it is not absolutely necessary under Minnesota law.
Basic contract principles of offer, acceptance and consideration apply to these agreements. There must be a “meeting of the minds ” in terms of the meaning of the contract a couple enters into. Additionally, the law requires that there be a complete disclosure of all income, assets and liabilities of each party on the date that the agreement is executed.
Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements typically involve the division of marital assets, the amount and duration of a potential award of spousal maintenance and the obligation of each party in relation to the finances of the household during the marriage. Some agreements are drafted to protect or preserve the inheritance of a child when a second marriage is involved.
Minnesota law says that any prenuptial or postnuptial agreement must be substantively and procedurally fair. A party seeking to undo the contract after the fact faces the burden of proving that the agreement was not executed in a fair manner or that its terms are not fair in and of themselves.