Rhode Island: Toughest state in country to invalidate a prenuptial!

Rhode Island may be the toughest state in the country to invalidate or challenge a prenuptial agreement in court. The RI legislature and the RI Supreme Court has made prenuptial agreements extremely difficult to set aside and invalidate! It is nearly impossible to invalidate a prenuptial in Rhode Island. In this divorce law article, a divorce lawyer in RI explains the validity of premarital agreements in RI.

In order for a prenuptial agreement to be unenforceable, it must be both involuntary and unconscionable!

 

Divorce in RI- Premarital agreement

RI prenuptial agreement attorney

When you read the case of Marsocci v Marsocci, there can only be one rational response and that is: “Wow, really?”  Marsocci and Rhode Island General Law § 15-17-6 stand for the proposition that in order for a prenuptial agreement to be unenforceable, it must be both involuntary and unconscionable. (Unconscionable means totally and completely unfair) PR8 Web Directory

Does this mean that a property settlement agreement that was fair but was involuntary could be enforceable under Rhode Island Law? That seems to be a preposterous proposition. However, according to the clear reading of case law and § 15-17-6, it appears to be the law in Rhode Island! Does that mean a person could argue: ‘the agreement was fair even though I was threatening my girlfriend with a weapon if she didn’t sign the agreement.’ I seriously doubt that any Rhode Island Family Court Judge would uphold a premarital agreement entered into under those circumstances. However, that example illuminates the absurd state of Rhode Island Law concerning Prenuptial agreements. The seminal case in Rhode Island concerning prenuptial agreements is Marsocci v. Marsocci, 911 A.2d 690 (RI 2006) Supreme Court of Rhode Island. Debra L. MARSOCCI v. David A. MARSOCCI No. 2005-149-A. Decided: December 15, 2006 Present:  WILLIAMS, C.J., and GOLDBERG, SUTTELL, and ROBINSON, JJ. Alfred Factor, Esq., for Plaintiff. Donald R. Lembo, Esq., North Providence, for Defendant. OPINION

“Enforce-ability of a premarital agreement is governed by the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act as codified in § 15-17-6” In Marsocci, the Court stated “In Rhode Island, the enforce-ability of a premarital agreement is governed by the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act as codified in § 15-17-6. ####

The legislature “clearly evidenced the intent to preserve the validity of such agreements”

In Marsocci, the Rhode Island Supreme Court reasoned “We have noted that when the Legislature enacted the provisions of § 15-17-6, it clearly evidenced the intent to preserve the validity of such agreements [and] * * * [maintain] the integrity of such agreements.” Id. at 696. Citing Penhallow v. Penhallow, 649 A.2d 1016, 1021 (R.I. 1994). Penhallow v. Penhallow 649 A.2d 1016 (1994) John PENHALLOW v. Susan M. PENHALLOW. No. 93-137-Appeal. Supreme Court of Rhode Island. November 21, 1994. *1017 Robert D. Oster, Oster & Groff, Lincoln, for plaintiff. William F. Holt, Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum, Cranston, for defendant. OPINION LEDERBERG, Justice.

Significant burden upon the party seeking to render the agreement unenforceable

The Marsocci Court further opined “To that end, the Legislature placed a significant burden upon the party seeking to render the agreement unenforceable – that party must prove all of the elements in §§ 15-17-6(a)(1) and (2), and must do so by clear and convincing evidence….We are satisfied that § 15-17-6(b) unambiguously provides that: ‘[t]he burden of proof as to each of the elements required in order to have a premarital agreement held to be unenforceable shall be on the party seeking to have the agreement declared unenforceable’ * * *.”

The Marsocci’s signed a prenuptial agreement four days prior to the wedding

In Marsocci, the husband David and the wife Debra were married on August 26, 1995. The parties signed a prenuptial agreement four days prior to the wedding. Both parties signed the agreement, and it was witnessed. “The trial justice found that each asset David listed was unaccompanied by a dollar value; nor was there a written waiver of Debra’s right to disclosure of the value of her husband’s property and his financial obligations.” In Marsocci, the trial judge determined, “There is no information contained in this agreement as to the values of any of Mr. Marsocci’s assets.” The trial judge found that Debra ” has nothing and agrees to end up with nothing after her marriage…” The husband, David, was represented by counsel and the wife Debra did not have an attorney representing her.

RI top Court upholds premarital agreement

The Rhode Island Supreme Court upheld the validity of the prenuptial agreement holding that Debra did not prove all elements of the Premarital Agreement Act by clear and convincing evidence.

If a person signs a prenuptial without a lawyer is it enforceable?

Yes.  A prenup in Rhode Island is enforceable even if one or both parties did not have a lawyer. It may be preferable for a person to have a Rhode Island divorce lawyer but it is far from required to make the premarital agreement enforceable.

Rhode Island premarital agreement attorney

David Slepkow is a Rhode Island divorce attorney concentrating in divorce, family law, restraining orders, child support, custody and visitation. David Slepkow has been practicing for over 20 years and is licensed in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and the United States Supreme Court. Free initial consultations. Credit Cards Accepted. David was voted a top 3 lawyer in RI by the Providence Journal Reader’s choice awards poll.

####Section 15-17-6 states:

“(a) A premarital agreement is not enforceable if the party against whom enforcement is sought proves that:

(1) That party did not execute the agreement voluntarily; and

(2) The agreement was unconscionable when it was executed and, before execution of the agreement, that party:

(i) Was not provided a fair and reasonable disclosure of the property or financial obligations of the other party;

(ii) Did not voluntarily and expressly waive, in writing, any right to disclosure of the property or financial obligations of the other party beyond the disclosure provided; and

(iii) Did not have, or reasonably could not have had, an adequate knowledge of the property or financial obligations of the other party.

(b) The burden of proof as to each of the elements required in order to have a premarital agreement held to be unenforceable shall be on the party seeking to have the agreement declared unenforceable and must be proven by clear and convincing evidence.

(c) If a provision of a premarital agreement modifies or eliminates spousal support and that modification or elimination causes one party to the agreement to be eligible for support under a program of public assistance at the time of separation or marital dissolution, a court, notwithstanding the terms of the agreement, may require the other party to provide support to the extent necessary to avoid that eligibility.

(d) An issue of unconscionability of a premarital agreement shall be decided by the court as a matter of law.”