12 May 2012

Tennessee Prenuptial Agreement Held Invalid for Inadequate Disclosure

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Case summary on Tennessee prenuptial agreement enforcement in Tennessee divorce and family law.

Stancil v. Stancil, Tennessee prenuptial agreement law

Wife filed for divorce from husband and requested temporary alimony as a result. However, the husband countered the request for temporary alimony stating that an antenuptial agreement precluded the wife from receiving any type of alimony. The wife alleged that the antenuptial agreement was invalid in that she was misled in signing it.

The trial court ruled that the antenuptial agreement was in fact valid and enforceable. The appeals court was to rule on whether or not the antenuptial agreement was valid.

The husband asked her to marry him in August of 2001 and told her a few months later that they would need to sign an agreement so the wife would not be on his property, the wife alleged. The wife, with only a 10th grade high school education and the husband, who is part owner of an insurance company, agreed to marry only after this agreement was signed. He told her it was necessary to protect him from her poor credit history.

In the time that follows, the wife alleges that she agreed to sign the document only because the husband stated that he would specifically leave out a piece of property from the contract. In doing so, she says he noted, the entire contract would be voided as inaccurate but that in the meantime it would protect him from her credit. The wife requested that her personal counselor, Doctor Charles M. Nies be present and here what the husband stated about the country. Later in court, he testified that the contract was meant to protect her from credit score problems only.

The next day, the document was signed in front of the husband’s attorney and the wife was given fair opportunity to ask questions. She stated she looked over the documents and did not see a specific reference to the specific property he promised to exclude from the agreement and thus she signed it.

The original court ruled that the antenuptial agreement was valid since the property was disclosed even if full disclosure was not forthcoming. However, the appeals court ruled that the proponent of the agreement has the burden of establishing the existence and the terms of the agreement and that in this case, it did not do so. The appeals court ruled that the husband mislead the wife in this case. The burden of proof was not met by the husband. Rather, the preponderance of evidence points to a lack of good faith by the husband in the case. It also notes that adequate disclosure was not made in that the value of the properties was not listed.

Dissenting in part, Charles D. Susano, Jr.

In a dissenting opinion, Charles D. Susano, Jr. notes that he agrees with the validity of the antenuptial agreement being the burden of proof of existence and terms being on the part of the husband in this case. However, he does not believe the appeals court should have reversed the court’s findings but rather vacated the judgment and sent it back to the lower court.

No. E2011-00099-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Jan. 13, 2012).

Memphis divorce lawyer, Miles Mason, Sr., JD, CPA practices family law exclusively and is founder of the Miles Mason Family Law Group, PLC, which handles family law matters including divorce, child support, alimony, prenuptial agreements, child custody, parental relocation, child support modification, and alimony modification.

Disclaimer: See original opinion for exact language.  Legal citations omitted.

 

Miles Mason

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Memphis divorce and family lawyer, Miles Mason, Sr. is the founder of Miles Mason Family Law Group, PLC. For more information about our professional staff, see our Meet the Team page.

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