Prenuptial Agreement Not Valid Due To Overreaching & Unconscionable Execution

Prenuptial Agreements can be valid if they are prepared properly with adequate financial disclosure and opportunity to read, review and seek legal advice.

In a recent case both parties had previously been divorced. The parties had a long term pre-marital relationship and maintained separate residences although the future husband substantially supported his girlfriend and her children. The future husband was a successful business owner with assets of several million dollars and the future wife was working part-time with very low income. After many years of dating they were to get married and the husband to be stated that they would need a prenuptial agreement to which the wife to be said she would sign anything.

Approximately one month before the wedding the husband asked his attorney to draft a prenuptial agreement which essentially provided that he would keep all present and future assets and that the wife would receive almost nothing if they were to divorce. The husband did not tell his wife to be until two days before the wedding and after she had given up her apartment and disposed of her furnishings that a prenuptial agreement had been prepared. The husband told his lawyer that the wife did not have a lawyer. The husband's lawyer picked an atttorney from his suite to represent the wife. The husband picked up the wife from work and drove her to his lawyer's office where she was introduced to her lawyer.

Her lawyer reviewed the prenuptial agreement with her, told her it was one sided but did not negotiate any changes to the agreement nor seek any additional information. The wife was crying during the meeting and was told that the agreement was a "take it or leave it" proposition. The wife signed the agreement and stated it was the worst day of her life. The entire process including her talking to her husband lasted 45 minutes.

The court found that the wife was vulnerable since she had already given up her apartment, that she lacked the resources to choose her own attorney, that her husband's lawyer picked her attorney which the husband paid for, that she did not have a meaningful opportunity to consider the agreement, that it was one sided and presented in a manner that no changes would be acceptable and that the agreement if enforced would leave her destitute after nearly 12 years of marriage.

I advise clients all the time that prenuptial agreements cannot be rushed just before marriage, that there must be full financial disclosure, that their spouse should have an attorney that they select and that the agreement must conform with New York law. Most lawyers will tell their clients that the only agreement that is "bullet proof" is the one where there is no marriage. If you are going to embark on the signing of a prenuptial agreement you must have experienced matrimonial counsel to protect your rights whether you are drafting or reviewing an agreement. Please contact my office so that I can help you protect your rights.