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Some people ask whether a person can waive spousal maintenance in a prenuptial agreement in Arizona.
In Arizona, it had long been the rule that agreements made before marriage affecting alimony or spousal maintenance were against public policy. However, over time and as women gained more rights, the legislature changed the alimony and spousal maintenance laws in Arizona.
Public Policy on Enforcement of Prenuptial Agreements Waiving Spousal Maintenance in Arizona
The courts began to take a different view of these prenuptial agreements. In Williams v. Williams, 801 P.2d 495 (1990) the Court of Appeals reviewed the state of the law. Specifically, it looked at whether prenuptial agreements prohibiting alimony or spousal maintenance payments violate public policy.
Mrs. Williams and Mr. Williams married in 1984. Before their marriage, they entered into an agreement about their finances. They agreed that all of the income received and debts incurred would be kept separate. They also agreed that neither of them would be entitled to alimony or spousal maintenance in case of a divorce.
Just before the couple divorced, the wife got pregnant. She revised the dissolution petition to ask for child support and spousal maintenance. Mr. Williams asked for a paternity test, but it determined that he was 99% certain to be the father. He asked for another paternity test, but that request was rejected by the court.
The trial court found that the prenuptial agreement prohibiting the payment of alimony was against public policy. Therefore, it awarded Wife $850 a month in child support and $850 a month in spousal support for 18 months. From this judgment, the Husband appealed.
Waiver of Spousal Maintenance in Prenuptial Agreements is Enforceable in Arizona
The Court of Appeals discussed Arizona law about prenuptial agreements. Under the statutes, they are legal as long as they do not violate public policy.
In the past, Arizona courts found prenuptial agreements that precluded alimony or spousal support violated public policy. This started in an early case, Williams v. Williams, 243 P. 402, 404 (1926). There, the Court held that prenuptial agreements discharging a husband’s duty of spousal support are contrary to public policy.
The Court of Appeals said the decision in Williams was based upon two premises:
(1) Prenuptial agreements waiving spousal maintenance were considered to be against public policy because they could result in a situation where the husband was relieved of his legal obligation to support his wife. Albeit it was his fault that the wife sought and was granted a divorce.
(2) Such agreements also were against public policy because of the state’s interest in the adequate support of its citizens; therefore, the husband’s duty to support his wife could not be the subject of a contract between the parties.
It noted that the first premise no longer applies with force. Arizona has a no-fault divorce system, where divorce is based on irreconcilable differences. Therefore, one spouse doesn’t have to be guilty for the other to end a marriage.
In those days, a husband had a legal duty to support his wife. He could be found criminally guilty if he did not. Now the law says that either spouse may be ordered to pay maintenance to the other in some circumstances.
An able spouse, regardless of gender, must support the other financially during marriage if the need arises.
Case by Case Review of Spousal Maintenance Provisions in Arizona Prenuptial Agreements
Today, the courts enforce alimony provisions contained in prenuptial agreements. The agreements are valid if the spouses entered into them with full disclosure and with no fraud, overreaching or duress. Additionally, the result of the agreement must not be unconscionable. A court may find a prenuptial agreement void if circumstances existing at the time of divorce make the provision unconscionable.
The Court of Appeals sent this issue back to the trial court. It reversed the trial court’s decision that rejected the prenuptial agreement regarding alimony on general public policy grounds.
It ordered the trial court to conduct an inquiry into the fairness of the agreement when it was made at the time of the divorce.
The Court reversed the decision of the trial court which ruled the prenuptial agreement void. It gave the lower court instructions to determine whether Mrs. Williams could support herself when determining if the provision in the prenuptial agreement concerning alimony could be enforced.
If you have questions about whether prenuptial agreements regarding alimony are enforceable in Arizona, you should seriously consider contacting the attorneys at Hildebrand Law, PC. Our Arizona spousal maintenance and family law attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience successfully representing clients in spousal maintenance and family law cases.
Our family law firm has earned numerous awards such as US News and World Reports Best Arizona Family Law Firm, US News and World Report Best Divorce Attorneys, “Best of the Valley” by Arizona Foothills readers, and “Best Arizona Divorce Law Firms” by North Scottsdale Magazine.
Call us today at (480)305-8300 or reach out to us through our appointment scheduling form to schedule your personalized consultation and turn your Arizona spousal maintenance or family law case around today.
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About the Author: Chris Hildebrand has over 26 years of Arizona family law experience and received awards from US News and World Report, Phoenix Magazine, Arizona Foothills Magazine and others. Visit https://www.hildebrandlaw.com.