Case Name: In re Marriage of Erpelding

Filed: March 2, 2018 by Iowa Supreme Court (No. 16-1419)

Subject matter: This case includes discussion of the following:

  • Whether a provision waiving attorney fees in the parties’ premarital agreement is an enforceable provision.
  • Premarital Agreements in Iowa are subject to the IUPAA as codified in Iowa Code chapter 596.
  • The Court resolved this case without enunciation of Iowa’s public policy on the enforceability of premarital agreement provisions waiving attorney fees. Instead, the Court relied upon the well-established principals of statutory interpretation in discerning the meaning of “adversely affected” in § 596.5(2).
  • There are two reasonable interpretations of § 596.5(2) and therefore the statute is ambiguous.
  • When interpreting an ambiguous statute, the Court will consider: 1) the object sought to be obtained; and 2) the history and circumstances surrounding the enactment of the statute. Iowa Code § 4.6(1)-(2).
  • Section 596.5 was enacted to explicitly and broadly protect the rights to child support and spousal support.
  • A financially disadvantaged spouse may be unable to adequately litigate support claims and therefore a waiver of attorney fees would adversely affect the right to support.
  • The Court held a premarital agreement provision waiving attorney fees pertaining to child support or spousal support is unenforceable because it adversely affects a spouse’s or child’s right to support.
Kristen A. Shaffer
Kristen is an Attorney and Vice President at Shuttleworth & Ingersoll whose work focuses on family law and litigation.