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New York Appellate Court Invalidates Prenuptial Agreement

In a rare move, a New York Appellate Court invalidated a prenuptial agreement based on a verbal promise made to discard the agreement, according to a report published on Abcnews.com. After initially refusing to sign an agreement that could potentially leave her with almost nothing, Elizabeth Petrakis signed the prenup 4 days before the wedding after her fiancé promised that he would get rid of it as soon as they began to have children.

Getting married has many legal ramifications, including the joint ownership of assets accumulated after the marriage. In addition, in situations where a person has existing children from a previous marriage, remarriage can operate to supersede any interest those children may have in their remarried parent’s assets. Because of these and other potential issues, people with significant assets or high earning potential who decide to get married may often enter into a prenuptial agreement, sometimes also referred to as a prenup or antenuptial agreement. 

These agreements are contracts entered into by the couple prior to marriage that provide for a predetermined resolution of issues that may arise should the marriage come to an end. For example, a standard prenup may include provisions for the division of property or spousal support in the event that the marriage ends in dissolution.  Prenuptial agreements must comply with certain legal requirements in order to be valid, and anyone considering one should be certain to consult with an experienced White Plains divorce attorney as soon as possible.

Under Domestic Relations Law § 236(B)(3),  there are 3 requirements that must be met in order for a prenuptial agreement to be enforceable. These are:

  • The agreement must be in writing
  • It must be subscribed to by the parties
  • It must be proven or acknowledged in the manner required to entitle a deed to be recorded

In the case of Elizabeth Petrakis, the appellate court ultimately determined that her ex-husband had fraudulently induced her to sign the document, and that he had no intention of fulfilling his promise to invalidate the agreement. 

While it is not necessary to have an attorney draft a prenuptial agreement, it is highly advisable. In addition to actually drafting the document, the representation of a skilled White Plains divorce attorney can help ensure that each party is fully informed of his or her rights and understands what the agreement means. In addition to fraudulent inducement, there are many other reasons that a prenuptial agreement may be invalidated. These include:

  • The agreement is unconscionable
  • It is void because of public policy concerns
  • It relieves one party of his or her obligations to the extent that it would make the other party a “public charge”
  • One party did not have the legal capacity to enter into the agreement at the time at which it was made
  • Duress

These are just some of the reasons a prenuptial agreement could potentially be invalidated. Whether you are seeking to enter into a prenup or wish to challenge an existing prenup’s validity, you should consult with an experienced White Plains divorce attorney. To schedule a free consultation with one of our lawyers, call Lynch Schwab, LLC today at (315) 471-1318.

Posted on December 12, 2013 in Divorce Attorneys