How Strong Is a Prenuptial Agreement in Indiana?

Most people don’t enter into marriage with the expectation that they’ll get divorced. However, if one or both individuals have significant assets or debts, a divorce could seriously impact them or their spouse. Because of that, even couples who hope for happily ever after may consider prenups.

Premarital agreements are enforceable in Indiana under the law. The state looks at these agreements as a type of contract between two people. The strength of your prenup depends heavily on how well it is written and whether all the provisions of the agreement are within Indiana law.

What Is a Prenup?

A prenup, or prenuptial agreement, is a contract created between two people before they get married. Also called a premarital agreement, this contract lays out a plan for specific things related to the marriage or any potential future dissolution of the marriage. Primarily, prenups tend to be concerned with financial factors such as the ownership of property or the payment of spousal support.

What Can Be Included in a Premarital Agreement?

While most people think of prenups as governing what happens to assets if there is a divorce, they can be more comprehensive than that. Some things that might be included in a prenuptial agreement include:

  • What rights each person has in various property acquired by each individual or the couple together. A prenup can define whether someone has the right to buy or sell property, use it, exchange it, lease it, expend or consume it, mortgage or create a security interest in it, otherwise encumber it, or dispose of it. This can control, to some degree, how property is managed during the marriage.
  • How property is handled if the marriage ends. A premarital agreement can create provisions for the disposition of property if the marriage ends via divorce or death.
  • How estate plans might be handled. Prenuptial agreements can impact the creation of wills, trusts, and other estate planning tools.
  • Whether spousal maintenance payments are allowed and how they can be modified.
  • Who owns the rights to life insurance death benefits.

Indiana state law also notes that a prenuptial agreement can include anything the couple wants as long as it is not in violation of a law or public policy.

However, you can’t include anything in a prenup that would negatively impact someone’s right to child support in the event of a divorce.

When Does the Premarital Contract Become Effective?

A couple can draw up and sign a prenuptial agreement at any time before they are married. However, the provisions of the contract do not become effective until the couple is officially married. So, for example, if you are engaged, you can create a prenup. However, if you break up before you get married, none of the provisions of the prenup are applicable.

When Is a Prenup Not Enforceable?

While prenups are enforceable under Indiana law as a contract, there are some situations that can cause premarital agreements to become unenforceable.

First, both parties must actually agree to execute the contract. As in any other contract situation, if someone didn’t sign the agreement or was forced to sign the agreement, the contact is invalid. For example, if one party to the prenup can prove that they didn’t sign it and their apparent signature is a forgery, the prenup would be invalid. Or, if someone can demonstrate that they were forced into signing the agreement via blackmail or another method, the prenup is not enforceable.

Second, both parties must be able to reasonably understand the results of signing the agreement. If one party did not have the mental capacity for this understanding or the court deems the agreement to be unconscionable for any reason, it may not be upheld in court.

Finally, the agreement can’t create an extreme hardship for one of the parties that would not have been foreseeable when the prenup was signed. For example, if two people create a prenup that agrees to property and asset divisions that make sense when they are both health and working, that agreement may create extreme hardship if, later, one of the individuals is in a car accident that causes a serious disability. Whether or not extreme hardship exists is often left up to the court to decide.

How Can a Family Law Attorney Help?

Prenuptial agreements are much more complex than one person agreeing they will not seek the other person’s existing assets if divorce occurs. A family lawyer can work with you to understand your goals for a premarital agreement and ensure that the language of the agreement created supports those objectives.

An attorney experienced with these types of agreements can also help to ensure your contract is upheld if there are disputes about it later. Or, if you believe you are being held to a prenuptial agreement that would not be valid under Indiana law, a family law attorney can help you make a case for invalidating the prenup so you can gain access to assets you might otherwise have a right to.

Family law can be complex, and every marriage situation is unique. Working closely with a family law team can help you protect yourself and your assets before, during, or after a marriage. To find out more about how a lawyer can help with prenuptial agreements, contact the team at
The Deidra Haynes Law Office by calling 317-785-1832.