Law School Case Brief
Adams v. Adams - 278 Ga. 521, 603 S.E.2d 273 (2004)
In determining whether to enforce an antenuptial agreement in a divorce proceeding, a trial judge should consider whether: (1) the agreement was obtained through fraud, duress, or mistake, or through misrepresentation or nondisclosure of material facts; (2) the agreement is unconscionable; and (3) the facts and circumstances have changed since the agreement was executed, so as to make its enforcement unfair and unreasonable.
Andy (Husband) and Kay (Wife) Adams were married in July 1994. Two days before their wedding, they executed an antenuptial agreement which provided, inter alia, that in the event of a separation, Wife would receive $10,000 for every year of marriage with a cap of $100,000. Wife also waived all claims to Husband's pre-marital property and all other claims she may have growing out of the marriage and its dissolution; agreed not to make a “continued lifestyle claim”; and agreed to forfeit her rights if she engaged in “unforgiven adultery.” Both parties waived claims to separately titled property whether acquired prior to or during the marriage. At the time of the marriage, Husband's assets were valued at $4,526,708, and Wife's at $30,000.
In January 2003, Wife filed for divorce alleging adultery, cruel treatment, and an irretrievably broken marriage. She sought alimony and an equitable division of property. Husband answered, counterclaimed for divorce, and filed a motion to enforce the antenuptial agreement, which the trial court granted. Husband then filed a motion for summary judgment in the divorce action. Wife failed to file a response, and a divorce was granted. The trial court ordered Husband to pay to Wife a lump sum payment of $90,000 representing the agreed-upon $10,000 for each year of their marriage. Wife filed an application to appeal from the trial court's order, arguing that the antenuptial agreement was unconscionable as a matter of law.
Was the antenuptial agreement unconscionable, and thus, unenforceable?
The Supreme Court of Georgia noted that, in determining whether to enforce an antenuptial agreement in a divorce proceeding, a trial judge should consider whether: (1) the agreement was obtained through fraud, duress or mistake, or through misrepresentation or nondisclosure of material facts; (2) the agreement was unconscionable; and (3) the facts and circumstances have changed since the agreement was executed, so as to make its enforcement unfair and unreasonable. In the case at bar, the state supreme court held that the agreement was entered into without fraud, duress, mistake, coercion, or misrepresentation. The Wife entered into the agreement fully, voluntarily, and with full understanding of its terms after being offered the opportunity to consult with independent counsel. That the agreement might have perpetuated the already existing disparity between the parties' estates did not in and of itself render the agreement unconscionable when there was full and fair disclosure of the parties' assets prior to the execution of the agreement. The agreement was fair at the time it was executed and in light of subsequent events. Consequently, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in enforcing it.
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