New York, NY- Prenuptial agreements once seemed like an affront to a couple’s romantic sensibilities. To many couples, especially wealthy ones, prenuptial agreements are sensible ways to protect assets in case a marriage isn’t destined to survive. Such agreements are way to assure a spouse and their family’s future is secure. Prenuptials are typically rock-solid, but last year, a New York Supreme Court decision, shows how a prenuptial agreement can be challenged.
The case involved Elizabeth Petrakis, a New York woman who married a real-estate mogul Peter Petrakis, worth approximately $20 million when they tied the knot in 1996. Just four days before their wedding date Peter approached his bride asking her to sign a prenuptial agreement which in the event of divorce would give grant Elizabeth $25,000 a year of each year they were married and not a cent more. That is a pittance for someone earning $20 million a year.
Elizabeth wasn’t given time to consider the agreement, and no time to consult with a divorce attorney, but eventually agreed to sign. She agreed because at the time Peter verbally promised to that once the couple had children he would tear up the prenuptial agreement and put her name on the title of their marital home.
The first child came and the prenuptial was never ripped up. Elizabeth’s name was never put on the titles and throughout their marriage, the prenuptial hung over Elizabeth’s marriage like a dark cloud and ultimately caused it to break down. He husband never honored the promise he made to destroy the prenuptial he coerced his wife into signing.
The prenuptial she signed wasn’t going to be enough to care for herself and her children so she began challenging the prenuptial. After several years and numerous court appearances, she was finally triumphant.
Last year, the New York Supreme Court overturned the prenuptial agreement, ruling that Peter Petrakis fraudulently obtained Elizabeth’s signature on the agreement through coercion by making a verbal promise he never kept. Courts don’t typically honor verbal agreements but the court found that Elizabeth would have never approved of her husband’s prenuptial had he not made his verbal promise.
When the decision was handed down Elizabeth’s attorney explained why the court’s decision was so important. “Prenuptials are hard to challenge, but when the NY Supreme Court found in favor of Elizabeth Petrakis it set a precedent that other attorneys can use in cases where they are challenging a prenuptial agreement,” he said according to ABC News.
While a prenuptial is a great way to protect assets, a spouse should not be allowed force the other to sign one of these agreement without giving them the time to consider the terms. Doing so could mean, the lesser earning spouse is selling themselves short in the long run.
If you would like to have a prenuptial agreement drafted, or have one reviewed before signing, set up a consultation with one of our outstanding divorce attorneys. They will inform you whether the agreement is fair or if you should reconsider the terms.