If you’re familiar with ante-nuptial agreements (a/k/a “prenuptial agreements”) at all, then you’re probably familiar with the stereotype surrounding one variety of prenuptial agreement. That stereotype is a financially savvy fiancé who uses his less sophisticated fiancée’s desire, or perhaps need, to marry (along with her lack of financial savvy) as a means to get her to sign a one-sided prenuptial agreement, often at the last minute before the wedding.
Of course, many prenuptial agreements are the result of fair, good-faith negotiation and full, honest disclosure on both sides. Some, though, more closely resemble the “stereotype” illustrated above. When they do, and when they are the result of one fiancé placing an undue amount of pressure on the other fiancée, then it may be possible under the law to get the prenuptial agreement invalidated under the legal concept of “duress.” To find out more about invalidating (or enforcing) your prenuptial agreement, be sure to reach out promptly and speak to an experienced South Florida family law attorney.
One recent case from Miami gave a useful illustration of what impermissible duress might look like. Reportedly, six days before H.Z. and R.A.N.’s wedding in Venezuela, and with the bride-to-be four months pregnant with the couple’s second child, the man handed the woman a draft copy of an ante-nuptial agreement that the man’s attorney had written. The agreement made no provision for alimony or equitable distribution. It also lacked many important financial disclosures, but the man promised to provide the financial disclosures before the wedding.
The day before the ceremony, the disclosures still hadn’t occurred. Nevertheless, the husband-to-be demanded that the woman sign the agreement. He promised to cancel the wedding if the bride-to-be didn’t sign. Obviously, the threat of a canceled wedding was a great source of stress for the woman. On top of that, there was the additional threat that a failure to get married on the assigned date would damage the couple’s immigration status, and they already had imminent plans to immigrate to the United States.
Reluctantly, the fiancée signed.
The marriage lasted only five years. The husband filed for divorce in Miami and sought to enforce the ante-nuptial agreement. The wife asked the judge to invalidate it. She asserted that her signature was the product of “duress, coercion, or overreaching.” She also argued that the judge could invalidate it because the husband did not provide the financial disclosures demanded by Florida law.
‘Duress’ requires more than just a threat to cancel the wedding
The judge agreed on both points. The agreement was the product of impermissible duress and was executed despite an absence of full financial disclosures or a waiver of the right to receive those disclosures. The agreement was invalidated.
The husband appealed but lost. The appeals court made it clear that a spouse who simply makes a general threat not to go through with a marriage unless the other spouse signs an ante-nuptial agreement is not placing the other spouse under an impermissible level of duress.
However, what this husband did went beyond just simply requiring an ante-nuptial agreement prior to getting married. He gave the wife the agreement for the first time six days before the wedding, and the agreement lacked key information about his net worth and asset holdings. Despite promises to provide that information, the husband did not. Instead, he threatened to cancel the wedding which, in turn, potentially doomed the couple’s “shared, long-term plan to begin life anew with their children in the United States.”
Merely demanding an ante-nuptial agreement isn’t duress, but the totality of what this man did was duress, according to the appeals court, and the trial court was not out of bounds to invalidate the agreement.
Whether your needs involve needing to enforce a prenuptial agreement or needing to get one nullified, you need skillful counsel who knows the law “inside and out.” For that kind of reliable representation, reach out to the experienced South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation and put the power of our knowledgeable attorneys to work for you.