Post Nuptial Agreement Set Aside

A recent case in New York, Petrakis v. Petrakis, permitted a prenuptial agreement to be set aside on the basis of the husband's fraud in failing to abide by his promise to destroy the agreement in the event the parties had children. At first acknowledging that courts are in favor of sustaining the agreement of parties, they then went on to advise that the law granted exceptions that include fraud, duress, or other inequitable conduct. It held that although there were different versions of the facts by the couple, the lower court believed the wife's testimony, and the appellate division sustained the lower court because they said that the husband was unbelievable.

The court observed that it is deeply concerned with marriage and takes a supervisory role in matrimonial proceedings. It also commented that marital agreements are subjected to far greater scrutiny beyond that afforded to commercial contracts in general. It then noted that the heavy presumption that a written agreement normally manifests the true intention of the parties, this rule must yield to a case involving fraud, duress or other unlawful conduct.

It then concluded that where there was disputed testimony, due regard of the findings of the trial judge must prevail since he was in the position to assess the evidence and the credibility of witnesses. It also observed the husband's "patent evasiveness" to support its conclusion that the prenuptial agreement must be set aside.

This case may in fact be a landmark decision. It seems to establish the principal that where the facts justified the result, equity will intervene to right any wrong.