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Brooklyn Family Law, Blog

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Recent Family Court Rulings, Brooklyn, Kings County

PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENT UPHELD: Braha v. Braha
11/19/14

Recent Family Court Rulings, Brooklyn, Kings CountyRecent Kings County Case upholds prenuptial agreement in challenge by wife to declare it null and void. The Court’s decision makes clear that a handshake deal, or a deal sealed with a kiss, is inadequate for the purpose of declaring a prenuptial agreement null and void.

By way of background, the Brahas had a whirlwind courtship of a matter of weeks, with the husband-to-be declaring a wedding date because he had booked the honeymoon already. Mr. Braha then advised the wife-to-be that his father was putting severe pressure on him for a prenuptial agreement, absent which, he would be cut off from the family. Mr. Braha, as per his wife’s testimony, and that of the attorney that represented her with regard to the prenuptial agreement, made clear that he did not want or need the agreement and that they would just tear it up after the marriage. The result was that the wife-to-be neither negotiated or read the agreement. She did, however, sign it.

The husband with his new bride during the honeymoon did, in fact, tear up their copies of the prenuptial agreement and threw them overboard. It is not clear why the wife thought the husband would not be “cut off” if he somehow undid the prenuptial agreement that his father demanded in order to maintain his connection to his family. It is also not clear why the wife believed tearing up copies of a document somehow undid the original. Of course it does not.

Fast forward eleven years of marriage and two children later, and Mr. Braha sues for divorce, with the prenuptial agreement front and center, seeking enforcement thereof. There had been an argument on an earlier date during which the husband flashed around the original of the prenuptial agreement. The recent case is the response to the wife’s attempt to have the prenuptial agreement declared null and void, based upon the above factors and the fact that the wife was 22 at the time and the husband was 33.

The Court took the position that the agreement would be determined by its four corners. That’s the legal phrase for saying that what the document says is all the evidence that was going to be considered, absent a showing of duress or fraud of some kind. It is not clear from the order itself whether the Court considered the testimony of the wife and her attorney as to the statements of the husband to rip up and throw out the document as any type of fraud, or fraud in inducement. It is also possible that such a claim was not included in the wife’s complaint.  From this decision, the later may be the case because the mention of fraud in the order was not followed up by any rationale for ignoring it.

It also happens that the husband had not been honest in the agreement in stating his interest of 25% in a smallish business where, in fact, his 25% interest was of a multimillion dollar family business. The Court did not find that a factor to declare the agreement null and void. Nor was there any discussion in the decision on the matter of entering into a contract in good faith as an issue.

The prenuptial agreement, as many agreements, had a specific provision stating how the agreement could be modified or amended. Pretty standard language saying it had to be in writing and with the same formality of the agreement itself, and that it contained the entire agreement of the parties. No handshake, kiss or outside promises could change what was in the four corners of that agreement. If the wife had read the agreement, read that provision, would she still have signed? This decision shows that she was blindly confident that the agreement did not matter.

The questions become what to take away from this case, and there are several things to consider. First and foremost, signing a prenuptial agreement with the belief that it has no meaning or significance is foolhardy and this case merely puts that wisdom into bold print.  Same thing for a summary failure to review a document you are going to sign, particularly one that can decide your entire financial future. Do not sign anything, ever, unless you have read it, understand it and have had competent legal advice because you will likely fail in efforts to overturn that contract, as Mrs. Braha did here.

Contcat Renata Weissman's Brooklyn NY Family Law Practice promptly for legal Divorce advice, she can be reached Toll Free at 855-736-2829.