Can a Prenuptial Agreement Be Invalidated?

Yes, a prenuptial agreement and/or a provision of a prenuptial agreement can be invalidated by the court.

Courts invalidate prenuptial agreements for reasons like their violation of public policy, duress,  a lack of full financial disclosure, or fraudulent financial disclosure.

Section 61.079(7)(a), Florida Statutes (2019), in relevant part, provides: “A premarital agreement is not enforceable in an action proceeding under the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure if the party against whom enforcement is sought proves that . . . [t]he agreement was the product of fraud, duress, coercion, or overreaching.” Duress is defined as “a condition of mind produced by an improper external pressure or influence that practically destroys the free agency of a party and causes him [or her] to do and act or make a contract not of his own volition.” Herald v. Hardin, 95 Fla. 889, 891, 116 So. 863, 864 (1928) (citation omitted). In order to prove duress, “[i ]t must be shown (a) that the act sought to be set aside was effected involuntarily and thus not as an exercise of free choice or will and (b) that this condition of mind was caused by some improper and coercive conduct of the opposite side.”City of Miami v. Kory, 394 So. 2d 494, 497 (Fla. 3d DCA 1981).Thus, duress involves a “dual concept of external pressure and internal surrender or loss of volition in response to outside compulsion.” Id. (quoting 17 C.J.S. Contracts§ 168 (1963)).“It is not . . . duress for the proponent of the agreement to make it clear that there will be no marriage in the absence of the agreement.” Eager v. Eager, 696 So. 62d 1235, 1236 (Fla. 3d DCA 1997). Nonetheless, a party may not exploit another “for his [or her] own pecuniary advantage.” Berger v. Berger, 466 So. 2d 1149,1151 (Fla. 4th DCA 1985) (emphasis in original) (citing Paris v. Paris, 412 So. 2d 952 (Fla. 1st DCA 1982)).

For instance, in Zeigler v. Natera, the Third District Court of Appeals upheld a trial court ruling invalidating a prenuptial agreement where it was first presented to the fiance less than a week before the wedding date, signed on the eve of the parties wedding, and was not accompanied by a full and complete financial disclosure.

The parties planned to marry in Venezuela. Six days before their wedding, the husband presented the wife with a draft of an antenuptial agreement. At the time, the wife was four months pregnant with their second child. The only financial disclosures contained within the document were perfunctory references to the husband’s ownership of certain nominal non-convertible bearer shares with corresponding assigned nominal values. The agreement did not provide for equitable distribution or alimony. The husband allowed the wife to peruse the document and then assured her that he would furnish full financial disclosures prior to the wedding. The day before the wedding, having not yet provided any financial documentation, the husband threatened to cancel the ceremony if the wife did not.  Although it appears that the trial judge considered both unconscionability and duress in invalidating the agreement, as a finding of duress is amply supported by the record evidence, any error as to the unconscionability analysis does not dictate reversal. Dade Cty. Sch. Bd. v. Radio Station WQBA, 731 So. 2d 638, 644 (Fla. 1999) (“[I] f a trial court reaches the right result, but for the wrong reasons, it will be upheld if there is any basis which would support the judgment in the record.”).  The agreement did not contain an express waiver of any right to disclosure.

No two cases are identical and you will want to have your prenuptial agreement prepared and/or reviewed for validity and enforceability by a lawyer knowledgeable in the area.

 

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