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Family Law and Divorce Case Law Review--August 2014

Guido v. Guido, Appellate Division (Unreported Decision), August 27, 2014: In this case, the Court was confronted with a challenge to the validity of an antenuptial agreement. The parties executed the antenuptial agreement nine days before their wedding. As the Court noted, "Prenuptial agreements are enforceable assuming full disclosure and absent unconscionability... Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 37:2-38, the party seeking to invalidate a premarital agreement must prove by clear and convincing evidence that '[t]he party executed the agreement involuntarily,' or that the agreement is unconscionable. Subsection (c) of the statute also provides that an agreement is unconscionable, if before the execution, the party (1) Was not provided full and fair disclosure of the earnings, property and financial obligations of the other party; (2) Did not voluntarily and expressly waive, in writing, any right to disclosure of the property or financial obligations of the other party beyond the disclosure provided; (3) Did not have, or reasonably could not have had, an adequate knowledge of the property or financial obligations of the other party; or (4) Did not consult with independent legal counsel and did not voluntarily and expressly waive, in writing, the opportunity to consult with independent legal counsel. d. The issue of unconscionability of a premarital or pre-civil union agreement shall be determined by the court as a matter of law. An agreement shall not be deemed unconscionable unless the circumstances set out in subsection c. of this section are applicable."

The Court further noted that "The court in Marschall defines an unconscionable agreement as one 'which would leave a spouse a public charge or close to it, or which would provide a standard of living far below that which was enjoyed both before and during the marriage.'"

In reviewing the fairness of the Agreement, the Court noted that the Defendant (the party challenging the enforceability of the Agreement) would leave the marriage with over $2.5 million dollars in assets, after having coming into the marriage with nothing but an engagement ring. The couples' net worth at the time of the divorce was approximately $14.5 million. The Court further found that there was no support that the Defendant (a college graduate and operator of a landscape design business) could not support herself, and determined that even though she could not maintain the same lifestyle as that enjoyed during the marriage, the agreement was not unconscionable simply because there was a disproportionate division of the assets. Finally, the Court found the Defendant's arguments that she did not knowingly execute the Agreement based upon a failure to disclose assets, lack of counsel and the timeframe within which the Agreement was executed untenable based upon the evidence presented, of which none supported these claims.

If you wish to know your rights regarding a prenuptial agreement, please contact David R. Cardamone, Esq. at Miller & Gaudio today.

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