New York Court States That Prenuptial Agreement is Valid Despite Contentions
On October 30, 2014, the New York Law Journal published Braha v. Braila. 53005/2013, NYLJ 1202674775399, at *1 (Sup., KI., Decided October 14, 2014). The Court in this matter held that a prenuptial agreement could not be set aside despite contentions that the parties never intended for it to be enforced and that they tore up their copies of the agreement on their honeymoon.
This divorce case involved a husband, Ezra, and wife, Rina, who married after a whirlwind romance in 2002. Each had children from a prior marriage, and shortly before their wedding date Ezra informed Rina that she needed to execute a prenuptial agreement to satisfy his father. The parties each retained an attorney, but because Ezra allegedly told Rina that the agreement would never be enforced she never reviewed the agreement and did not ask her attorney to negotiate its terms. Rina further alleged that she and Ezra ripped up the only copies of the agreement and threw them into the sea on their honeymoon as the culmination of Ezra’s plan to deceive his father.
Rina also alleged that Ezra mislead her by failing to disclose a 25% interest in a multi-million dollar family business as the agreement was being drafted, thus failing to include a significant financial interest in discussions regarding the agreement, As a result. Rina moved to have the prenuptial agreement set aside on the basis of Ezra’s alleged fraudulent inducement.
Ezra, however, contended that while there was parental pressure involved in the drafting of the prenuptial agreement, the parties executed it properly and through the representation of two independent prenuptial agreement attorneys and that therefore there was no reason for the agreement to be found to be unenforceable.
The Court found that none of Rina’s contentions were adequate to set aside the duly executed prenuptial agreement. New York’s public policy strongly favors individuals ordering their affairs through contractual agreements, and in cases where the contractual language is unambiguous on its face there is no need to rely upon extrinsic evidence to interpret the agreement. Rina was represented by counsel of her choosing for the execution of the agreement, whom she paid directly (though the Court noted that even if Ezra had paid her counsel that alone would not be sufficient to overturn the agreement).
Failure to disclose financial matters alone is also not sufficient to set aside a prenuptial agreement, especially where the party has produced no evidence of a deliberate attempt to mislead. The agreement in this instance included a clause disclaiming reliance upon any representations outside of those in the agreement itself, which made Rina’s alleged reliance upon separate statements made by Ezra irrelevant. Finally, the Court did not credit Rina’s allegations that she and Ezra ripped up all the copies of the agreement on their honeymoon, as Ezra was able to produce an original executed copy of the agreement for the purposes of the parties’ divorce litigation.
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