Recent Issues Related to Pennsylvania Prenuptial Agreements

A recent article published at the Yahoo! news website titled, Wife of Millionaire Wins “Unprecedented” Case to Overturn Prenup Agreement detailed a story about a woman who was successful in overturning a prenuptial agreement despite representing herself and with no legal training.  The story explains that a “prenuptial agreement” had been signed four days prior to a planned wedding ceremony and included particular clauses related to real estate and a clause that the prenup would be destroyed upon the birth of the parties first child. Also importantly, the case described took place in New York which may have different rules regarding the validity of a prenup.

In Pennsylvania, this matter might not have been as drawn out as it appears in the yahoo news article. Initially, a pre-nup is a contract signed between two people who intend to marry, which becomes effective after the marriage. It may include many provisions related to joint or separate property, estate planning, support, and disposition upon the filing of a divorce. The purpose is to avoid certain rules or procedures in the divorce code and to avoid the burden of expensive divorce litigation.

For a pre-nup to be valid in Pennsylvania, it must include a complete disclosure of each parties property, must be a bargained for exchange, entered into knowingly and voluntarily by each party. Each party should have the opportunity to review the pre-nup with an attorney, and should have the ability to negotiate any term. In general, a drafted pre-nup which is sprung upon a party immediately prior to a planned wedding ceremony cannot be valid. Additionally, a Pennsylvania pre-nup may include language that the document will expire upon some act, like the birth of the parties first child.

Although the language of the actual prenup is not included in the yahoo news article, based on the summary in the article, it seems that Pennsylvania may not have belabored the issue to come to the same conclusion as the New York court. The pre-nup there was sprung upon the party contemporaneous with the planned and paid for marriage ceremony, and included actions which husband failed to take. The prenup also should have terminated upon the birth of the parties child, which makes most of the legal battle over the terms themselves mostly irrelevant.

This story highlights the importance of seeking legal counsel prior to entering any financial arrangement, including marriage. A properly drafted and executed pre-nup could have saved Husband millions in property and attorney’s fees and could have saved Wife over $400,000 in attorney’s fees.

For more information about a prenuptial agreement in Pennsylvania, take a look at our webpage related to pre-marital contracts.