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Grounds for Invalidating a Prenup in New York

Invalidating a prenuptial agreement has traditionally been difficult in the state of New York. However, in recent months, former wife of millionaire Peter Petrakis has made it just a little easier. Elizabeth Petrakis alleged that she was fraudulently induced to sign a prenup when her husband-to-be made an oral promise to destroy it once the couple had children. It is also relevant to note that she was asked to sign the prenup a mere four days before the wedding — after her parents spent $40,000 to plan the event.

In a landmark ruling, a Long Island appellate court judge sided with the former Mrs. Petrakis and voided the prenup. The lesson here is that it is a husband who makes false promises to get an agreement signed must bear the consequences. Judges take note of pressure-cooker situations, where one spouse waits until the very last minute to present the other with a prenup. The outcome might have been different if the contract had shown signs of being negotiated over time.

In New York, there are five grounds for invalidating a prenup:

  • Fraud. A spouse can claim that he or she reasonably relied on statements made by one spouse, only to be deceived.
  • Duress, coercion or lack of mental capacity. If one person faced pressure to sign a contract or lacked capacity to understand the contract, it may be invalidated.
  • Improper filing. Failure to follow protocol may be grounds for dismissal of an otherwise properly negotiated agreement.
  • Lack of counsel. It may be unfair for one spouse to be represented while the other is not, especially if one spouse is less knowledgeable about legal contracts.
  • Unconscionability. If the contract is too one-sided, a court may throw it out as unconscionable.

For help creating or litigating a prenup, speak with a knowledgeable family law attorney.

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