In a post-judgment divorce action involving prenuptials, the Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Fairfield at Bridgeport found that two prenuptial agreements offered during a dissolution proceeding were unenforceable. One document did not conform to a knowledge requirement regarding monetary amounts, while the second was written in a language the plaintiff could not understand, and for neither was the plaintiff represented by counsel.
The plaintiff, wife, and defendant, husband, were married in August 2003 in Lebanon and moved to Fairfield, Connecticut, shortly after. The husband owned two businesses and managed all household expenses and income, while the wife, who is fluent in both Arabic and French, obtained worked as a French language tutor several years after the move. The wife was unaware of her husband’s income. The parties separated in 2009, prompting the husband to permanently relocate to Lebanon, but not before making the wife leave the marital home.
At a limited contested trial, the wife offered two documents referenced as prenuptial agreements. The first was a “marriage confessional contract,” a document required under Lebanese law, which included a pre-paid dowry and a deferred dowry. The monetary amounts are usually jointly decided by the parties to the marriage, yet in this case, the husband chose the monetary amounts by himself. The second document was a “Prenuptial Agreement” prepared in English, which waived any and all claims by the wife to alimony, support, or her husband’s assets. The wife testified that she could neither read nor write English and believed she was signing papers that would allow her entry into the United States. Furthermore, the wife was not represented by counsel at any time during the preparation and execution of both documents.
Antenuptial agreements relating to the rights of parties to property upon the dissolution of marriage are generally enforceable when three conditions are met. The contract must be validly entered into, its terms must not violate statute or public policy, and the circumstances of the parties at the time of marital dissolution are not so beyond the contemplation of the parties at the time the contract was entered into making enforcement unjustified. Courts will inquire whether any waiver of statutory or common-law rights was made knowingly and voluntarily. Finally, each party shares the duty to disclose the amount, character, and value of individually owned property, absent independent knowledge by the other party.
In this case, the court found that neither document was enforceable. With respect to the first document, the wife had no actual knowledge of what assets were available to the husband when he decided upon the monetary amounts on his own. As to the second document, it was written in a language the wife could not read or write, and even if she could understand the contract, she had no opportunity to review it with counsel. As such, neither prenuptial agreement was legally enforceable.
Whether advancing or defending a post-judgment motion involving a prenuptial agreement, a divorced 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.