Skip to comments.Judge to hubby: Forget prenup, pay up
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.''
That's bad. The goverment or the legal system shouldn't enforce breach of contract. What happened to the rule of law?
Tereeeeza, be afraid, be very afraid.
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.
Logic test: how is this like abortion?
What the hell is the point of a pre-nup if a judge is going to everturn it?
Why would anyone with money want to get married?
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.
Love? Sorry, old-fashioned.
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.
Can it not be argued that springing the pre-nup on her two days before the wedding was "unconscionable" ?
This may be the 2nd reason T-Rex resides in PA legally (besides the lower tax rate there).
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.
Probably depends on the legal definition of "duress". A little tougher than "is", but still necessary.
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."
Yet she voluntarily agreed to not seek alimony. Isn't a pre-nup a contact?
I haven't taken Contracts yet, but I understand that the court may rescind a one-sided contract, which this certainly was.
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.
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.
If it was unreasonable she shouldn't have signed it.
Maybe something about him giving it to her TWO DAYS before the wedding played a part in this.
I am not a lawyer either but giving it to here TWO DAYS before the wedding has been ruled to be under duress.
The question is... was the prenup a completely valid contract at the time it was signed?
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.
She must have been afraid that if she didn't sign that he would leave.
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).
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...
People do a lot more that that for love. Especially when it is two days before her wedding.
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....
It's the woman's choice???
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.
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.
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...
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.
Sounds like the judges made the right decision in this case.
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.
What do you mean ?
Why is the wedding invalid ?
< chuckle >
Not exactly... but thanks for playing!
your joking, right?
"What happened to the rule of law?" It went by the way of the buggy whip when the RATS started appointing liberal activist judges.
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?
Then she was a fool to sign it!
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.
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.
I'll take: "So Lawyers can make lots of money..." for 200 Alex.
Two classes of men can afford marriage -- the very poor and the very wealthy. Middle class men can no longer afford it.
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.