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Appeals Court’s new ruling highlights “unconscionable” prenups

On Behalf of | Jul 10, 2023 | Asset Division |

Prenuptial agreements have long been used by people of considerable means to protect their wealth when marriages turn sour – but they’re increasingly being used by couples of even modest income levels in order to protect their entrepreneurial efforts, real estate holdings, pensions and other important assets.

If you have a prenuptial agreement, you may be well aware that the court can invalidate the agreement if it was “unconscionable” at the time of its execution. For example, handing your bride a prenuptial agreement and a pen 20 minutes before she is supposed to walk down the aisle to pressure her into a quick agreement could easily be considered unconscionable.

A new ruling by a Massachusetts Appeals Court, however, says that it’s also necessary to give a prenup a “second look” to see if it has become unconscionable at the time of the divorce, as well.

Rudnick v. Rudnick is a game-changer for prenup disagreements

The couple involved in the case had a prenup when they married in 1992. Despite the fact that the wife was asked to sign the prenup just a day before the wedding and there was a lack of true financial disclosure from the husband, the Court found that the prenup was fair and reasonable at the time of its creation. (This may have been largely due to the fact that the wife was represented by counsel at the time and specifically told she shouldn’t agree to it)

However, the Court said that the prenup failed to survive the “second look” at the time of their divorce, 27 years later, because the husband had breached the part of the agreement that required him to take title to their real estate as a tenant in common with his spouse – and that the wife had waived her alimony believing that she had an interest in those properties.

Essentially, this ruling highlights exactly how difficult it can be to draft an effective prenup, and the importance of fairness in a couple’s dealings with each other not only before the marriage starts but after.

If you’re facing a divorce and there’s a prenup involved, or if you intend to obtain a prenup prior to your marriage, seeking experienced legal guidance is likely the best way to protect your future.