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Judge to hubby: Forget prenup, pay up
Boston Herald ^ | Thursday, December 30, 2004 | David Weber

Posted on 12/30/2004 8:52:27 AM PST by Radix

In a possibly precedent-setting case, the state Appeals Court has ruled that an ex-wife is entitled to alimony even though she signed a prenuptial agreement waiving it.
Donna Austin was 37, and Craig Austin was 35 when they were married in May 1989, each for the second time. Two days before the wedding, Craig Austin presented Donna with a prenuptial agreement, which she signed, according to her attorney, Dana Curhan.
The Appeals Court upheld the portion of the prenuptial that protected assets Craig Austin had acquired before the wedding. But it said Donna Austin's waiver of alimony was not reasonable at the time she and Craig Austin signed the document.
``It was unreasonable to expect that his spouse, who then had no assets and negligible earning capacity, would contribute to the marriage by raising his child and by supporting his ability to work outside the home, with no expectation of future support, no matter how long the marriage, and regardless whether she might never acquire assets of her own,'' Justice Fernande Duffly wrote in the court's opinion.
Craig Austin's attorney, Jacob Atwood, said he will appeal the decision. Atwood said Donna Austin benefitted greatly by receiving ``hundreds of thousands of dollars'' in the division of property assets at the end of the Sandwich couple's 12-year marriage.
``I think this decision flies in the teeth of the DeMatteo case,'' Atwood said, referring to a 2002 Supreme Judicial Court decision upholding prenuptial agreements except in cases where one of the marital parties was left with an extreme hardship.
But Donna Austin's attorney said, ``The court is saying that by waiving her right to alimony, she was essentially waiving her future rights, which was not a realistic thing to do.''


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events; Unclassified
KEYWORDS: alimony; badjudge; divorce; familylaw; prenuptial; ruleoflawnot; ruling
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1 posted on 12/30/2004 8:52:28 AM PST by Radix
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To: Radix

That's bad. The goverment or the legal system shouldn't enforce breach of contract. What happened to the rule of law?


2 posted on 12/30/2004 8:53:49 AM PST by Kurt_D
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To: Radix

Tereeeeza, be afraid, be very afraid.


3 posted on 12/30/2004 8:54:11 AM PST by gov_bean_ counter
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To: Radix

I am not a lawyer but unless she was under some sort of duress when she signed I do not see how this cannot be overturned.


4 posted on 12/30/2004 8:54:28 AM PST by KJacob (Faith is not believing God can. It is knowing God will.)
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To: Radix

Logic test: how is this like abortion?

Dan


5 posted on 12/30/2004 8:54:37 AM PST by BibChr ("...behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD, so what wisdom is in them?" [Jer. 8:9])
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To: Radix

What the hell is the point of a pre-nup if a judge is going to everturn it?


6 posted on 12/30/2004 8:54:55 AM PST by Mears
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To: Radix

Why would anyone with money want to get married?


7 posted on 12/30/2004 8:56:02 AM PST by Hildy ( To work is to dance, to live is to worship, to breathe is to love.)
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To: Radix

Makes sense, I guess. I don't honestly see how a man can expect a woman to stay home raising the kids, and all that related stuff, while he earns a living, then upon divorce expect her to be able to just make a living after not being in the job market for over a decade.

They didn't nullify the whole pre-nup, just a part that was certainly unreasonable, IMHO.


8 posted on 12/30/2004 8:56:05 AM PST by Chad Fairbanks (I'd like to find your inner child and kick its little ass)
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To: Hildy

Love? Sorry, old-fashioned.


9 posted on 12/30/2004 8:56:35 AM PST by KJacob (Faith is not believing God can. It is knowing God will.)
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To: Radix
Two days before the wedding, Craig Austin presented Donna with a prenuptial agreement, which she signed, according to her attorney, Dana Curhan.

Presenting a prenuptual agreement just two days priot to the wedding meant she signed it under duress and the prenup should be void on that basis alone.

10 posted on 12/30/2004 8:56:46 AM PST by connectthedots
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To: KJacob

Can it not be argued that springing the pre-nup on her two days before the wedding was "unconscionable" ?


11 posted on 12/30/2004 8:57:14 AM PST by Sam the Sham
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To: gov_bean_ counter

This may be the 2nd reason T-Rex resides in PA legally (besides the lower tax rate there).


12 posted on 12/30/2004 8:57:26 AM PST by ProudVet77 (2004 is worn out, time to start 2005)
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To: Radix
If this is NOT overturned the SCOTUS has some 'splainen to do.
13 posted on 12/30/2004 8:57:58 AM PST by taxcontrol (People are entitled to their opinion - no matter how wrong it is.)
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To: Sam the Sham
Can it not be argued that springing the pre-nup on her two days before the wedding was "unconscionable" ?

I suppose. Could it be shown that she was in fear that if she did not sign that he would leave. That would almost be duress.

14 posted on 12/30/2004 8:58:50 AM PST by KJacob (Faith is not believing God can. It is knowing God will.)
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To: connectthedots

Probably depends on the legal definition of "duress". A little tougher than "is", but still necessary.


15 posted on 12/30/2004 8:59:13 AM PST by gov_bean_ counter
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To: KJacob

Yea, everyone's in love when they first meet, it's only after they live together for a few years it gets a bit "dicey."


16 posted on 12/30/2004 8:59:28 AM PST by Hildy ( To work is to dance, to live is to worship, to breathe is to love.)
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To: Chad Fairbanks

Yet she voluntarily agreed to not seek alimony. Isn't a pre-nup a contact?


17 posted on 12/30/2004 8:59:31 AM PST by Bushforlife (I've noticed that everybody that is for abortion has already been born. ~Ronald Reagan)
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To: Kurt_D

I haven't taken Contracts yet, but I understand that the court may rescind a one-sided contract, which this certainly was.


18 posted on 12/30/2004 8:59:50 AM PST by jude24 ("To go against conscience is neither right nor safe." - Martin Luther)
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To: Radix

This is the peoples republic of mass, so really no surprise that a court should overturn a legitimate agreement. Especially one involving alimony, as the liberals really love sticking it to men.


19 posted on 12/30/2004 9:00:03 AM PST by Pondman88
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To: Radix

Ah yeas GREED AND LAWYERS.... where you find one you find the other. If the Prenupt is voided by the court then there isn't a single contract that is safe from this.... This is a very bad thing.


20 posted on 12/30/2004 9:00:57 AM PST by Hu Gadarn (Millions for Defense not one cent in Tribute)
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To: Chad Fairbanks
They didn't nullify the whole pre-nup, just a part that was certainly unreasonable, IMHO.

If it was unreasonable she shouldn't have signed it.

21 posted on 12/30/2004 9:01:06 AM PST by Rodney King (No, we can't all just get along.)
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To: Kurt_D
That's bad. The goverment or the legal system shouldn't enforce breach of contract. What happened to the rule of law?

Maybe something about him giving it to her TWO DAYS before the wedding played a part in this.

22 posted on 12/30/2004 9:02:02 AM PST by WildTurkey
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To: KJacob
I am not a lawyer but unless she was under some sort of duress when she signed I do not see how this cannot be overturned.

I am not a lawyer either but giving it to here TWO DAYS before the wedding has been ruled to be under duress.

23 posted on 12/30/2004 9:03:01 AM PST by WildTurkey
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To: WildTurkey

The question is... was the prenup a completely valid contract at the time it was signed?


24 posted on 12/30/2004 9:04:00 AM PST by Kurt_D
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To: KJacob
Could it be shown that she was in fear that if she did not sign that he would leave. That would almost be duress.

I don't think that's duress; the nature of any contract includes the certainty that the other party will leave the table if you cannot come to terms. If that leverage (enjoyed by both parties, BTW) is called fear than every contract ever signed would be void.

Maybe she should've told him to forget it, and then the onus would've been on him to still get married or call the whole thing off. If I were her (I'm actually a man), I'd have had some serious reservations about character after a prenup was sprung just two days before the wedding.

25 posted on 12/30/2004 9:04:03 AM PST by NittanyLion
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To: WildTurkey

She must have been afraid that if she didn't sign that he would leave.


26 posted on 12/30/2004 9:04:11 AM PST by KJacob (Faith is not believing God can. It is knowing God will.)
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To: taxcontrol

A pre-nup is perfectly voidable if it is "unconscionable", (i.e., one party was head over heels and signed anything) or signed under duress (i.e., bride is pregnant or in this case right before the wedding).


27 posted on 12/30/2004 9:04:20 AM PST by Sam the Sham
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To: Radix
It is somewhat similar to employee non-compete agreements. They can be a real problem and the courts have thrown them out on occasion due to the fact that person has to earn a living and this is their specialty.

Who what the future holds?????
28 posted on 12/30/2004 9:04:30 AM PST by Quick Shot
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To: Bushforlife

Yeah, it is. However, there are often legitimate reasons why specific parts of a contract can be nullified - it wasn't like they threw out the whole contract, but rather just a portion that the court deemed unjust...


29 posted on 12/30/2004 9:04:52 AM PST by Chad Fairbanks (I'd like to find your inner child and kick its little ass)
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To: Rodney King
If it was unreasonable she shouldn't have signed it.

People do a lot more that that for love. Especially when it is two days before her wedding.

30 posted on 12/30/2004 9:05:02 AM PST by WildTurkey
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To: Kurt_D
Not every contract is enforceable. There is such a thing as "unconscionable"--

Loverboy shouldn't seek to marry in the first place if what he really wanted was a slave. I do not believe most prenups are enforceable. They seem to me to be better suited for elder couples who want to protect family assets for their children, rather than Donald Trump wannabes....

31 posted on 12/30/2004 9:06:00 AM PST by Mamzelle
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To: BibChr

It's the woman's choice???


32 posted on 12/30/2004 9:06:09 AM PST by proud_2_B_texasgal
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To: Radix
Liberal Massachusetts. One state not to live in.

In my opinion, prenups should be upheld. If the other party doesn't like the prenup, they don't have to sign it but it also means there might not be a marriage.

I was married at one time but got divorced. Luckily, I got divorced in Colorado instead of Indiana. Colorado recognizes assets obtained prior to marriage to remain with the given spouse where as in Indiana, everything is considered dividable including inheritances.

If I get married again, I plan on doing a prenup and it would be simple. Whoever owns title to the property keeps it. No alimony especially.
33 posted on 12/30/2004 9:06:11 AM PST by CORedneck
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To: connectthedots
Presenting a prenuptual agreement just two days priot to the wedding meant she signed it under duress and the prenup should be void on that basis alone.

I am not certain this is completely true.

Certainly the date of the prenup is two days before the wedding. But they could have been discussing it for months, revising drafts all along the way, and finally gotten it to exactly the right wording two days before the wedding.

Or, consider the possibility that her told her he wanted one, she reluctantly verbally agreed, and then did nothing about it for months. Two days before the wedding he says sign it or call it off. She will claim duress, but he has just as valid a claim to duress if she agreed previously but then delayed in the hope that she could force the issue.

34 posted on 12/30/2004 9:06:18 AM PST by CurlyDave
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To: connectthedots

Not ennough details are presented here. It looks like the pre-nup was a surprise two days before the wedding. I know of a woman who had such a surprise the morning of the wedding. Surprise! The best way is to go to the islands to get married and hire a local person to perform the 'ceremony'. The 'little woman' never realizes she's not married until years later.


35 posted on 12/30/2004 9:06:25 AM PST by ladyjane
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To: Mears
What the hell is the point of a pre-nup if a judge is going to everturn it?

In the BIG scheme of things the point of a pre-nup, or basically and legal document, is to enrich lawyers (Kerry/Edwards et. al.).

Lawyers should be sued for malpractice if this stands and they have anything to do with putting together pre-nups from that point on. We desperately need legal reform... LOTS of it...

36 posted on 12/30/2004 9:07:05 AM PST by 69ConvertibleFirebird (Never argue with an idiot. They drag you down to their level, then beat you with experience.)
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To: WildTurkey

A contract can be invalid if it is sprung in a way that does not give the other party time for "due consideration". Two days before a wedding wasn't enough time to get her own lawyer to go over it.


37 posted on 12/30/2004 9:07:33 AM PST by Sam the Sham
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To: Radix

Sounds like the judges made the right decision in this case.


38 posted on 12/30/2004 9:08:06 AM PST by Tempest (Click on my name for a long list of press contacts)
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To: Kurt_D
The question is... was the prenup a completely valid contract at the time it was signed?

Most courts have ruled that for a pre-nup to be valid, both parties have to have sufficient time to review it and obtain legal advice in needed. Two days before the wedding would not be sufficient. Besides she is being put under duress to sign it.

39 posted on 12/30/2004 9:08:35 AM PST by WildTurkey
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To: ladyjane

What do you mean ?

Why is the wedding invalid ?


40 posted on 12/30/2004 9:08:47 AM PST by Sam the Sham
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To: proud_2_B_texasgal

< chuckle >

Not exactly... but thanks for playing!

(c8


41 posted on 12/30/2004 9:08:48 AM PST by BibChr ("...behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD, so what wisdom is in them?" [Jer. 8:9])
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To: connectthedots

your joking, right?


42 posted on 12/30/2004 9:09:44 AM PST by Jazzman1
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To: Kurt_D

"What happened to the rule of law?" It went by the way of the buggy whip when the RATS started appointing liberal activist judges.


43 posted on 12/30/2004 9:10:36 AM PST by reagandemo (The battle is near are you ready for the sacrifice?)
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To: WildTurkey

Some people in this thread seem to say that men don't have the right to change their mind if the future Mrs refuses to sign a prenup. They call it duress. I say it is their right to do so, especially in light of the current laws of the US; these laws are unreasonable to the extreme as they don't take into account the hardships the man would be under, the fairness of the sums of money involved if she didn't bring much monetarily into the marriage and he was loaded. The prenup is one of the few mechanisms that decrease the risks of deciding to marry.

CAN WE PLEASE STOP INCREASING THE RISKS OF MARRYING AND INCREASING THE INCENTIVES TO DIVORCE?


44 posted on 12/30/2004 9:12:57 AM PST by winner3000
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To: Sam the Sham

Then she was a fool to sign it!


45 posted on 12/30/2004 9:13:16 AM PST by Mears
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To: KJacob

I think being presented with a prenup two days before the wedding - after invitations have been sent, you've told family and friends how you're so much in love, etc. - could be a situation causing duress. It would freak me out, that's for sure.


46 posted on 12/30/2004 9:13:28 AM PST by knittnmom
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To: Kurt_D
What happened to the rule of law?

Since the days of Blackstone, the common law has prohibited the enforcement of contracts to the extent they violate public policy. This is nothing new. Whether the pre-nup violates public policy is a different issue.

47 posted on 12/30/2004 9:13:34 AM PST by Labyrinthos
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To: Mears
"What the hell is the point of a pre-nup if a judge is going to overturn it?

I'll take: "So Lawyers can make lots of money..." for 200 Alex.

48 posted on 12/30/2004 9:14:43 AM PST by Mad Dawgg (French: old Europe word meaning surrender)
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To: Hildy
"Why would anyone with money want to get married?"

Two classes of men can afford marriage -- the very poor and the very wealthy. Middle class men can no longer afford it.

49 posted on 12/30/2004 9:14:47 AM PST by Bonaparte (Of course, it must look like an accident...)
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To: WildTurkey
Maybe something about him giving it to her TWO DAYS before the wedding played a part in this.

Of course the story doesn't say that there was NO discussion regarding a pre-nup until it was given to her to sign. (Gee... did the MSM do this hit piece against the man?) My guess is that if they were getting married they talked about these things many months, if not for years, before the final contract was presented - two days before the marriage contract was executed.

Of all the I've dated women I always bring up the financial issues for discussion in detail, and how things will go (although I don't ever want a pre-nup and I have plenty to loose), if marriage is to be considered.

50 posted on 12/30/2004 9:14:47 AM PST by 69ConvertibleFirebird (Never argue with an idiot. They drag you down to their level, then beat you with experience.)
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