1997 Regular Session
To: Judiciary A
By: Representative Perry
House Bill 931
AN ACT TO CREATE THE UNIFORM PREMARITAL AGREEMENT ACT; TO AUTHORIZE AGREEMENTS BETWEEN PROSPECTIVE SPOUSES MADE IN CONTEMPLATION OF MARRIAGE; TO SPECIFY THE MATTERS WITH RESPECT TO WHICH PARTIES MAY CONTRACT IN PREMARITAL AGREEMENTS; TO SPECIFY THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF A PREMARITAL AGREEMENT AND THE MANNER IN WHICH SUCH AN AGREEMENT MAY BE AMENDED OR REVOKED; TO SPECIFY CONDITIONS UNDER WHICH A PREMARITAL AGREEMENT IS NOT ENFORCEABLE; TO AMEND SECTIONS 93-3-7, 93-5-2 AND 93-5-23, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, IN CONFORMITY THERETO; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. Sections 1 through 11 of this act may be cited as the "Uniform Premarital Agreement Act."
SECTION 2. As used in Sections 1 through 11 of this act:
(a) "Premarital agreement" means an agreement between prospective spouses made in contemplation of marriage and to be effective upon marriage.
(b) "Property" means an interest, present or future, legal or equitable, vested or contingent, in real or personal property, including income and earnings.
SECTION 3. A premarital agreement must be in writing and signed by both parties. Such agreement is enforceable without consideration.
SECTION 4. (1) Parties to a premarital agreement may contract with respect to:
(a) The rights and obligations of each of the parties in any of the property of either or both of them whenever and wherever acquired or located;
(b) The right to buy, sell, use, transfer, exchange, abandon, lease, consume, expend, assign, create a security interest in, mortgage, encumber, dispose of, or otherwise manage and control property;
(c) The disposition of property upon separation, marital dissolution, death, or the occurrence or nonoccurrence of any other event;
(d) The modification or elimination of spousal support;
(e) The making of a will, trust, or other arrangement to carry out the provisions of the agreement;
(f) The ownership rights in and disposition of the death benefit from a life insurance policy;
(g) The choice of law governing the construction of the agreement; and
(h) Any other matter, including their personal rights and obligations, not in violation of public policy or a statute imposing a criminal penalty.
(2) The right of a child to support may not be adversely affected by a premarital agreement.
SECTION 5. A premarital agreement becomes effective upon marriage.
SECTION 6. After marriage, a premarital agreement may be amended or revoked only by a written agreement signed by the parties. The amended agreement or the revocation is enforceable without consideration.
SECTION 7. (1) A premarital agreement is not enforceable if the party against whom enforcement is sought proves that:
(a) That party did not execute the agreement voluntarily; or
(b) The agreement was unconscionable when it was executed and, before execution of the agreement, that party:
(i) Was not provided a fair and reasonable disclosure of the property or financial obligations of the other party;
(ii) Did not voluntarily and expressly waive, in writing, any right to disclosure of the property or financial obligations of the other party beyond the disclosure provided; and
(iii) Did not have, or reasonably could not have had, an adequate knowledge of the property or financial obligations of the other party.
(2) If a provision of the premarital agreement modifies or eliminates spousal support and that modification or elimination causes one (1) party to the agreement to be eligible for support under a program of public assistance at the time of separation or marital dissolution, a court, notwithstanding the terms of the agreement, may require the other party to provide support to the extent necessary to avoid that eligibility.
(3) An issue of unconscionability of a premarital agreement shall be decided by the court as a matter of law.
SECTION 8. If a marriage is determined to be void, an agreement that otherwise would have been a premarital agreement is enforceable only to the extent necessary to avoid an inequitable result.
SECTION 9. Any statute of limitations applicable to an action asserting a claim for relief under a premarital agreement is tolled during the marriage of the parties to the agreement. However, equitable defenses limiting the time for enforcement, including laches and estoppel, shall be available to either party.
SECTION 10. All written agreements entered into before July 1, 1995, between prospective spouses for the purpose of affecting any of the subjects specified in Section 4 of this act shall be valid and enforceable if otherwise valid as contracts.
SECTION 11. Sections 1 through 11 of this act shall be applied and construed to effectuate its general purposes to make uniform the law with respect to the subject of Sections 1 through 11 of this act among states enacting it.
SECTION 12. Section 93-3-7, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
93-3-7. (1) Except as otherwise provided in subsection (2), husband and wife shall not contract with each other, so as to entitle the one to claim or receive any compensation from the other for work and labor, and any contract between them whereby one shall claim or shall receive compensation from the other for services rendered, shall be void. It shall not be lawful for the husband to rent the wife's plantation, houses, horses, mules, wagons, carts, or other implements, and with them, or with any of her means, to operate and carry on business in his own name or on his own account, but all business done with the means of the wife by the husband shall be deemed and held to be on her account and for her use, and by the husband as her agent and manager in business, as to all persons dealing with him without notice, unless the contract between the husband and wife which changes this relation, be evidenced by writing, subscribed by them, duly acknowledged, and filed with the chancery clerk of the county where such business may be done, to be recorded as other instruments.
(2) Nothing in this section shall prohibit or restrict the subject of any premarital agreement executed under the provisions of Sections 1 through 11 of this act.
SECTION 13. Section 93-5-2, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
93-5-2. (1) Divorce from the bonds of matrimony may be granted on the ground of irreconcilable differences, but only upon the joint complaint of the husband and wife or a complaint where the defendant has been personally served with process or where the defendant has entered an appearance by written waiver of process.
(2) If the parties provide by written agreement for the custody and maintenance of any children of that marriage and for the settlement of any property rights between the parties and the court finds that such provisions are adequate and sufficient, the agreement may be incorporated in the judgment, and such judgment may be modified as other judgments for divorce.
(3) If the parties are unable to agree upon adequate and sufficient provisions for the custody and maintenance of any children of that marriage or any property rights between them, they may consent to a divorce on the ground of irreconcilable differences and permit the court to decide the issues upon which they cannot agree. Such consent must be in writing, signed by both parties personally, must state that the parties voluntarily consent to permit the court to decide such issues, which shall be specifically set forth in such consent, and that the parties understand that the decision of the court shall be a binding and lawful judgment. Such consent may not be withdrawn by a party without leave of the court after the court has commenced any proceeding, including the hearing of any motion or other matter pertaining thereto. The failure or refusal of either party to agree as to adequate and sufficient provisions for the custody and maintenance of any children of that marriage or any property rights between the parties, or any portion of such issues, or the failure or refusal of any party to consent to permit the court to decide such issues, shall not be used as evidence, or in any manner, against such party. No divorce shall be granted pursuant to this subsection until all matters involving custody and maintenance of any child of that marriage and property rights between the parties raised by the pleadings have been either adjudicated by the court or agreed upon by the parties and found to be adequate and sufficient by the court and included in the judgment of divorce. Appeals from any orders and judgments rendered pursuant to this subsection may be had as in other cases in chancery court only insofar as such orders and judgments relate to issues that the parties consented to have decided by the court.
(4) Complaints for divorce on the ground of irreconcilable differences must have been on file for sixty (60) days before being heard. Except as otherwise provided in subsection (3) of this section, a joint complaint of husband and wife or a complaint where the defendant has been personally served with process or where the defendant has entered an appearance by written waiver of process, for divorce solely on the ground of irreconcilable differences, shall be taken as proved and a final judgment entered thereon, as in other cases and without proof or testimony in termtime or vacation, the provisions of Section 93-5-17 to the contrary notwithstanding.
(5) Except as otherwise provided in subsection (3) of this section, no divorce shall be granted on the ground of irreconcilable differences where there has been a contest or denial; provided, however, that a divorce may be granted on the grounds of irreconcilable differences where there has been a contest or denial, if the contest or denial has been withdrawn or cancelled by the party filing same by leave and order of the court.
(6) Irreconcilable differences may be asserted as a sole ground for divorce or as an alternate ground for divorce with any other cause for divorce set out in Section 93-5-1.
(7) Nothing in subsections (2) and (3) of this section shall prohibit or restrict the subject of any premarital agreement executed under the provisions of Sections 1 through 11 of this act.
SECTION 14. Section 93-5-23, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
93-5-23. When a divorce shall be decreed from the bonds of matrimony, the court * * *, in its discretion, and having regard to the circumstances of the parties and the nature of the case, as may seem equitable and just, may make all orders touching the care, custody and maintenance of the children of the marriage, and * * * if need be, require bond, sureties or other guarantee for the payment of the sum so allowed. Except as may be otherwise provided in a premarital agreement executed under the provisions of Sections 1 through 11 of this act, the court may make orders touching the maintenance and alimony of the wife or the husband, or any allowance to be made to her or him, and if need be, shall require bond, sureties or other guarantee for the payment of the sum so allowed. Orders touching on the custody of the children of the marriage may be made in accordance with the provisions of Section 93-5-24. The court may afterwards, on petition, change the decree, and make from time to time such new decrees as the case may require. However, where proof shows that both parents have separate incomes or estates, the court may require that each parent contribute to the support and maintenance of the children of the marriage in proportion to the relative financial ability of each. In the event a legally responsible parent has health insurance available to him or her through an employer or organization that may extend benefits to the dependents of such parent, any order of support issued against such parent may require him or her to exercise the option of additional coverage in favor of such children as he or she is legally responsible to support.
Whenever the court has ordered a party to make periodic payments for the maintenance or support of a child, but no bond, sureties or other guarantee has been required to secure such payments, and whenever such payments as have become due remain unpaid for a period of at least thirty (30) days, the court may, upon petition of the person to whom such payments are owing, or such person's legal representative, enter an order requiring that bond, sureties or other security be given by the person obligated to make such payments, the amount and sufficiency of which shall be approved by the court. The obligor shall, as in other civil actions, be served with process and shall be entitled to a hearing in such case.
Whenever in any proceeding in the chancery court concerning the custody of a child a party alleges that the child whose custody is at issue has been the victim of sexual or physical abuse by the other party, the court may, on its own motion, grant a continuance in the custody proceeding only until such allegation has been investigated by the Department of Human Services. At the time of ordering such continuance the court may direct the party, and his attorney, making such allegation of child abuse to report in writing and provide all evidence touching on the allegation of abuse to the Department of Human Services. The Department of Human Services shall investigate such allegation and take such action as it deems appropriate and as provided in such cases under the Youth Court Law (being Chapter 21 of Title 43, Mississippi Code of 1972) or under the laws establishing family courts (being Chapter 23 of Title 43, Mississippi Code of 1972).
If after investigation by the Department of Human Services or final disposition by the youth court or family court allegations of child abuse are found to be without foundation, the chancery court shall order the alleging party to pay all court costs and reasonable attorney's fees incurred by the defending party in responding to such allegation.
The court may investigate, hear and make a determination in a custody action when a charge of abuse and/or neglect arises in the course of a custody action as provided in Section 43-21-151, and in such cases the court shall appoint a guardian ad litem for the child as provided under Section 43-21-121, who shall be an attorney. Unless the chancery court's jurisdiction has been terminated, all disposition orders in such cases for placement with the Department of Human Services shall be reviewed by the court or designated authority at least annually to determine if continued placement with the department is in the best interest of the child or public.
The duty of support of a child terminates upon the emancipation of the child. The court may determine that emancipation has occurred and no other support obligation exists when the child:
(a) Attains the age of twenty-one (21) years, or
(b) Marries, or
(c) Discontinues full-time enrollment in school and obtains full-time employment prior to attaining the age of twenty-one (21) years, or
(d) Voluntarily moves from the home of the custodial parent or guardian and establishes independent living arrangements and obtains full-time employment prior to attaining the age of twenty-one (21) years.
SECTION 15. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 1997, and shall apply to any premarital agreement executed on or after that date.