Parentage Prenups and Midnups
Jeffrey A. Parness
Northern Illinois University - College of Law
April 23, 2014
Georgia State University Law Review, Vol. 31, 2015, Forthcoming
In July, 2012 the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws recommended for enactment in all American states the Uniform Premarital and Marital Agreements Act . Unlike its predecessor, the Act treats “premarital agreements and marital agreements under the same set of principles and requirements.” Like its predecessor, it speaks largely to agreements on property, including money. Unlike its predecessor, it expressly recognizes there may be agreements on “custodial responsibility.”
Custodial agreements are not “binding” on the courts under the Act because parents and prospective parents do not have the power to waive the rights of third parties (their current or future children) or to remove the duty of the courts to protect the best interests of minor children. The Act’s Comment suggests that while such agreements are not always enforceable, they can provide “guidance” to courts. The paper argues that “guidance” on “custodial responsibility” should flow from prenups and midnups even if there is no statute on such agreements and even if any statute is silent as to “custodial responsibility.”
The Act implies there can be guidance within premarital and marital agreements on future child support for existing and future children. It also implies there can be guidance within such agreements to create, have created, or adopt children. States implementing the Act should expressly recognize that prenups and midnups can address child support and child creation as well as child custody.
When might child custody, child support or child creation promises within prenups and midnups be suitable for prospective and current spouses and others? And when might prenups and midnups provide “guidance” to judges? This paper suggests that future and actual stepparents could employ such agreements. Without such agreements, stepparent standing to seek childcare orders is usually less available because of the superior parental rights of existing parents. The paper also suggests that childcare pacts in prenups and midnups can guide other current and future family members (like grandparents, aunts and uncles) who later seek to childcare.
As to child support pacts, superior parental rights and public concerns about children’s interests pose fewer problems than childcare pacts. Childcare by a parent generally is not negatively impacted when additional child support is provided. Public policy does not allow money alone, however, to be the basis for childcare standing.
As to child creation agreements, both superior parental rights and other federal constitutional interests (like paternity opportunity interests), as well as public concerns, are significantly implicated. Statutes and common law rulings already respect certain child creation pacts involving assisted human reproduction outside of prenups and midnups. The paper suggests prenups or midnups on child creation should also guide judicial decisions, sometimes beyond these statutes and rulings.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 34
Keywords: parentage, prenuptial, antenuptial, premarital, midmarriage, prenup, midnup, Uniform State Law Commissioners, custodial responsiblity, childcare, child custody, child support, parenting time, Troxel, Lehr, Michael H., Santosky, superior parental rights, premarital agreement, antenuptial agreement
Date posted: April 25, 2014 ; Last revised: July 2, 2014