New York, NY- After a long battle, a New York court has sided with Elizabeth Petrakis and voided and prenuptial agreement she and her husband signed just four days before their wedding. This decision could set a precedent in future divorce cases where prenuptial agreements are involved.
The court threw out the prenuptial agreement because of a verbal promise Peter Petrakis, Elizabeth’s husband, made and agreed that Elizabeth was forced to sign the agreement. The court’s decision could set a precedent in future divorce cases.
Weeks before marrying Peter Petrakis, a real-estate mogul worth close to $20 million, Elizabeth was given a prenuptial agreement that would award her $25,000 for every year she and Peter were married and not a penny more.
Elizabeth told ABC news that she didn’t want to sign the agreement and refused. She was presented with the prenuptial again four days before her 1998 wedding when Peter promised her he would tear up the prenuptial once they had children and add her to the title of their home. But Peter never did and to Elizabeth the agreement was “thorn” in their marriage.
Four years into the marriage and three children later, Elizabeth hit her breaking point; she learned that her name wasn’t listed on the title for the mansion they moved into after their marriage even though Peter promised to add her.
Peter denies he promised to tear up the agreement.
Elizabeth decided to divorce Peter and she embarked on a battle to have the prenuptial overturned. Not an easy task since prenuptial agreements are practically etched in stone. Court sometimes overturn prenuptials if one spouse is coerced into signing the agreement or the marriage was based on fraud, but these two things can be nearly impossible to prove.
Elizabeth spent many years battling the prenuptial going through a couple of attorneys before she found Dennis D’Antonio, another attorney who was willing to help her. D’Antonio told ABC he wasn’t certain he could get the prenuptial thrown out but he could at least offer her some assistance.
After a 13 day trial, a New York Appellate Court decided that Peter Petrakis had fraudulently obtained his soon-to-be-wife’s signature through coercion and made verbal promises he didn’t keep.
D’Antonio said the decision was “groundbreaking.” Other attorneys agree, celebrity divorce lawyer Vikki Ziegler told Yahoo News, “This is unprecedented in the family law world. This is a landmark decision that will likely be litigated a great deal in the future in similar cases for those who feel their prenups are unconscionable.”
D’Antonio said of the decision, “If you are too greedy and marginalize a spouse, it’s a lot easier for an Appellate Court to agree with a legal argument that would invalidate a prenup than it otherwise might be if that prenup was fair. It’s not a given that the prenup is going to rule at the end of the day.”
With the prenuptial battle over Elizabeth and Peter can now get divorced. Since her prenuptial agreement is void Elizabeth could be entitled to half his fortune.
Elizabeth learned a great deal from her experience and built up a business around her legal ordeal. She now runs a divorce advisement business called Divorce Prep Experts.