The validation or invalidation of prenuptial agreements has been the focus of a number of Supreme Court opinions in 2015 and 2016. In a recent order, In re: Calvin, decided January 11, 2016, the Supreme Court invalidated a prenuptial agreement that was presented to the wife five days before the ceremony.
The Calvin case is interesting in that it focuses heavily on the timing of the presentation of the agreement. The Supreme Court noted that while the parties discussed the possibility of a prenuptial agreement approximately one month before the wedding, the husband did not give the prenuptial agreement to the wife until five days before the ceremony. At that time all the invitations had been extended and the wife spent a considerable amount of money in preparation for the wedding. The husband further informed the wife he would not marry her unless she signed the agreement. The Supreme Court held that, given the timing of the presentation of the agreement, which “is of paramount importance in assessing the validity of the agreement”, the wife had been pressured into signing the agreement.
It is important to note that the emphasis this Court placed upon the timing of the agreement is contrary to at least two other reported decisions. In one case, the Supreme Court upheld an agreement presented the day of the wedding largely because the agreement only dealt with one issue of which the wife was entirely familiar. In another case, the Supreme Court held a prenuptial agreement that was executed a few days before the wedding because the wife had intimate knowledge of the husband’s financial affairs.
The Calvin decision emphasizes the importance of involving an attorney well before the date of the wedding if a prenuptial agreement is to be considered. The agreement should be presented with enough time for the other side to retain counsel to review the agreement. A detailed disclosure of the parties’ assets and liabilities should be provided so that a meaningful review can be accomplished. Taking shortcuts in this process can lead to the agreement being challenged and possibly invalidated in a future court hearing.
If you have any questions regarding prenuptial agreements, please contact one of the attorneys at Hamblett & Kerrigan for a consultation.
Andrew J. Piela is a Director at Hamblett & Kerrigan, P.A. Mr. Piela concentrates his practice in civil litigation, family law, probate and land use litigation. You can reach Attorney Piela by e-mail at [email protected].