Lack of Fair Disclosure Invalidates Prenuptial Agreement

In a divorce action regarding fair disclosure, the Appellate Court of Connecticut reversed a trial court decision that validated a prenuptial agreement, despite the fact that one party failed in his duty to fairly and reasonably disclose his income prior to signing the agreement.

The plaintiff, husband, and defendant, wife, met in early 2002 through a dating service. They were engaged in June 2002, and because the husband had substantial assets while the wife had limited resources, they drafted a prenuptial agreement. During negotiations, both parties were represented by independent counsel, and they signed the prenuptial agreement in December 2002, four days before they were married. The husband filed for dissolution of the marriage in May 2008, citing irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, and sought enforcement of the prenuptial agreement. The wife, however, challenged its enforceability, as the financial statement the husband provided prior to the agreement’s execution was an insufficient disclosure as to his income. In August 2008, the trial court concluded that the agreement was valid and enforceable, resulting in an appeal.

A premarital agreement or amendment is generally enforceable unless the party against whom enforcement proves one of four statutory scenarios. One such situation is that that before the agreement’s execution, the party was not provided a fair and reasonable disclosure of the amount, character and value of property, financial obligations, and income of the other party. “Fair and reasonable disclosure” refers to the nature, extent, and accuracy of information that is disclosed, and the other party does not have independent knowledge of these financial circumstances. It is a duty of disclosure, not of inquiry.

In this case, the Appellate Court did not find the plaintiff’s disclosure to be fair and reasonable. It explained that in his financial statement, the husband failed to identity net income from his real estate investments. More telling, the word “income” wasn’t even used anywhere in the financial disclosure. The court stated that even though the wife and her counsel did not question the sufficiency of the plaintiff’s disclosure before signing the prenuptial agreement, it was not her duty or burden to do so. The wife did not have independent knowledge of the husband’s earning capacity. As such, the court found that the husband did not meet his burden to inform, and it was illogical and legally improper for the trial court to declare the prenuptial was legally enforceable. Therefore, the ruling was reversed, and the case remanded for reconsideration of all financial orders.

Whether advancing or defending a divorce action involving a prenuptial agreement, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced family law practitioner. Should you have questions regarding matrimonial matters, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.