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Divorce court voids prenuptial agreement

Colorado courts will give effect to a valid prenuptial agreement. It is uncommon for a court to declare a prenuptial agreement unenforceable. Yet it happened in a recent New York divorce case, in which the attorney for the wife persuaded the court that the husband fraudulently induced her to sign it.

The man presented the agreement to his future wife several weeks before their wedding. The agreement would give her only $25,000 for each year of marriage, and nothing else. The husband is a real estate developer who now has a reported net worth of about $20 million. The woman initially refused to sign the agreement. But just days before the wedding, her fiancé again asked her to sign it. This time he made a promise: once the couple started having children, he would tear up the agreement. The woman signed.

The couple ultimately had three children, but the husband never tore up the agreement.

After the couple began divorce proceedings, the wife challenged the prenuptial agreement. Her attorney argued to the court that the husband had fraudulently induced her to sign it because, at the time he made the promise to tear up the agreement when they started having kids, he had no intention of keeping the promise. The court agreed, and declared the agreement invalid.

Colorado law gives validity to prenuptial agreements when they are entered into openly and with full disclosure. They are usually an effective way to proactively prevent expensive disputes over asset division and spousal support in the event of a divorce. But a prenuptial agreement is a contract, and as with any contract, a Colorado court will declare it unenforceable if it is shown that one party used fraud or deceit to induce the other to sign it.

Source: ABC News, "Long Island Woman Wins 'Groundbreaking" Prenup Battle," March 12, 2013

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