Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Interpreting Prenuptial Agreements

Indiana law sees prenuptial agreements as contracts and the courts apply the rules of interpreting contracts to prenuptial agreements. Specifically, Indiana courts use the following steps when interpreting a prenuptial agreement:

  1. First, the court considers the parties’ intent as expressed in the language of the contract and that means reading all of the contractual provisions. The court seeks an interpretation that harmonizes the contract's language to give effect to the parties’ intentions.
  2. So long as the contract language has no ambiguities, the language in the contract controls.
  3. An ambiguity happens "only when reasonably intelligent persons would honestly differ as to the meaning of those terms...." See Schmidt v. Schmidt, 812 N.E.2d 1074, 1080 (Ind. Ct. App. 2004).
  4. "Antenuptial agreements are favored by the law and will be liberally construed to realize the parties’ intentions." Boetsma v. Boetsma, 768 N.E.2d 1016, 1020 (Ind. Ct. App. 2002), reh’g denied, trans. denied, 783 N.E.2d 699.
What does this mean in practical terms? Getting the best drafted prenuptial agreement possible will pay dividends if the case turns on the prenuptial agreement.

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