Articles Posted in Prenuptial Agreements

According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 6 people globally are affected by infertility. With increased occurrences of infertility, as well as with the Obergefell v. Hodges decision legalizing same sex marriage nationwide, there exists a demand for the use of artificial reproductive technology (ART).


One common form of ART is In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF), which often requires the creation of embryos (or the use of donated embryos). While people don’t typically foresee their divorce or a breakdown of their relationship while they are actively trying to build a family, the reality is that many couples who undergo IVF (and other forms of ART) and who create or otherwise utilize embryos ultimately do end up going their separate ways.


The disposition of embryos in Illinois has not been addressed by the legislature. If a couple does not properly enter into a contract regarding embryo disposition in the event of their divorce or separation, the fate of those embryos will be left to the courts. In August of 2022, the Second District Appellate Court made a decision in the case of Marriage of Katsap and analyzed the three different common law approaches the courts have employed in resolving disputes over frozen embryos, specifically:

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Section 7(b) of the Illinois Uniform Premarital Agreement Act states that if a provision of a premarital agreement modifies or eliminates spousal support and that modification or elimination causes one party to the prenuptial agreement undue hardship in light of circumstances not reasonably foreseeable at the time of the execution of the prenuptial agreement, a court, notwithstanding the terms of the prenuptial agreement, may require the other party to provide support to the extent necessary to avoid such hardship.  The following is a case study involving the application of these principles.


In the case of In re the Marriage of Barnes, the Appellate Court for the Fourth District analyzed what constitutes undue hardship and unforeseen circumstances.  In that case, Edward was the sole shareholder and chief executive officer of a company.  He earned in excess of $250,000 per year.  His wife, Sandra, quit her office job where she had been earning $19,000 per year in order to spend more time with Edward.  Before their marriage, they signed a prenuptial agreement.

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Imagine the classic scenario: you are presented with a prenuptial agreement on the eve of your wedding, and asked to sign before you make your vows tomorrow.  You’ve been together for years and had no idea this was coming.  Your soon-to-be spouse earns significantly more than you and has more assets than you.  Should you hire an attorney?  Did your spouse disclose assets you had no idea he or she had?  Are you being asked to waived spousal support in the event of divorce?  Should you just “risk it” and sign the agreement, hoping that if you get divorced the court will deem it unenforceable?


In Illinois, the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act governs the formation and enforceability of prenuptial agreements.  It provides that a premarital agreement is not enforceable if the party against whom enforcement is sought can prove that he or she did not execute the agreement voluntarily, or if the agreement was unconscionable when it was executed, and that party was either 1) not provided a fair and reasonable disclosure of the assets or financial obligations of the other, 2) did not voluntarily and expressly waive any right to disclosure of the same, and 3) did not have or reasonably could not have had an adequate knowledge of the property or financial obligations of the other.  As you can see, there are several factors that a court will consider when determining whether a premarital agreement should be enforced.  This results in a very fact-intensive inquiry by the court.



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