In Massachusetts, a judge has broad discretion with respect to the equitable division of the marital estate and may consider both economic and noneconomic contributions to the marital estate. A prenuptial agreement can clarify the responsibility for debts incurred during the marriage, as well as how payments made toward individual, pre-marital debts during a marriage, including student loans, are to be treated in the event of a divorce. Generally speaking, debt incurred during the marriage, including student loan debt, will be presumptively marital. The party challenging that presumption will typically have to present evidence that the debt at issue was intended to be an individual debt. The analysis is entirely dependent on the circumstances of the case and the determining factor will not rest on whether the challenging party's signature is on the underlying promissory note securing the original debt. In a vacuum, student loan debt incurred by one party prior to the marriage will typically be categorized as individual debt, especially in marriages of a shorter duration. However, the issue becomes more complicated where one spouse significantly pays down the other's pre-marital student loan debt. While the Court may certainly look to the intent of the parties at the time of the incurrence of the debt - in highly contested matters - evidence to that effect may be limited to the now at-odds testimony of the parties.
The Appeals Court recently affirmed a Probate and Family Court judge's decision -- made pursuant to the "second look" doctrine -- to award a wife $400,000 as a substitute for the principal residence that she was to receive according to the letter of the parties' prenuptial agreement. Kelcourse v. Kelcourse, No. 13-P-1741 (decided Jan. 21, 2015), 2014 WL 7653645.
Flowers are blooming, temperatures are rising --- Spring is in the air. Wedding season is upon us - save the date postcards were mailed in January and June wedding dates are just around the corner. Just when you think all the wedding planning is almost complete, one of the parties raises the issue of prenuptial agreements.