Rhode Island General Law 15-17-6 and established Rhode Island Supreme Court decisions create a tremendous burden on a person seeking to invalidate a prenuptial agreement in Rhode Island. To put it bluntly, Rhode Island Prenuptial Law is ridiculous and absurd. Rhode Island May be the toughest state in the country to invalidate or challenge a Premarital agreement.
Rhode Island prenuptial agreement attorney
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 AND no fair and reasonable disclosure. (Unconscionable means totally and completely unfair)
Does this mean that a property settlement agreement that was fair but was involuntary could be enforceable under RI Family Law?
That seems to be a ludicrous 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 did not sign the agreement.’ I seriously doubt that any Rhode Island Family Court Judge would uphold a premarital agreement entered into under those circumstances. However, the above 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)
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. 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).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’ * * *.”
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 stated “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.
The Court upheld the validity of the prenuptial agreement holding that Debra did not prove all of the elements of the Premarital Agreement Act by clear and convincing evidence.
The intent of the statute is to “preserve the validity of such agreements.”
In order to invalidate a premarital agreement a person must prove every element of the statute by clear and convincing evidence.
R.I.G.L 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 unconscionably of a premarital agreement shall be decided by the court as a matter of law.”
Legal Notice per Rules of Professional Responsibility: The Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all lawyers and attorneys in the general practice of law, but does not license or certify any lawyer / attorney as an expert or specialist in any field of practice. While this firm maintains joint responsibility, most cases of this type are referred to other attorneys for principle responsibility.