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Corbett v. Corbett - 280 Ga. 369, 628 S.E.2d 585 (2006)

Rule:

A trial court must consider three factors in determining the validity of a antenuptial agreement: (1) Was the agreement obtained through fraud, duress or mistake, or through misrepresentation or nondisclosure of material facts? (2) Is the agreement unconscionable? (3) Have the facts and circumstances changed since the agreement was executed, so as to make its enforcement unfair and unreasonable? Whether an agreement is enforceable in light of these criteria is a decision made in the trial court's sound discretion.

Facts:

Charles (Husband) and Eileen (Wife) Corbett were married in 1987. Three days before their marriage, they entered into an antenuptial agreement which provided, inter alia, that should the marriage dissolve, each would retain their separate property and assets, with each party waiving any and all rights to seek alimony, maintenance, support, inheritance, or intestacy. In signing the agreement, both parties acknowledged that they had read it and had it explained to them by specifically identified independent counsel of their own choosing. The agreement also purported to make full disclosure of the separate property and assets of Husband and Wife as to which both were waiving any current or future claim. The evidence, however, revealed that the wife did not read the agreement prior to her signing the same nor had she have an attorney review or explain the agreement. Moreover, there was no evidence on record to prove that the spouses disclosed their separate properties to each other. After 15 years of marriage, the wife filed for divorce. Thereafter, the husband moved for partial summary judgment seeking to enforce the antenuptial agreement. The trial judge denied the motion, finding the agreement unenforceable under Scherer v. Scherer, 249 Ga. 635, 292 S.E.2d 662. After a jury trial, at which the agreement was not mentioned, the trial court entered judgment on the verdict and granted the parties a divorce. On appeal, the husband contended that the trial court erred in failing to enforce the antenuptial agreement.

Issue:

Was a married couple's antenuptial agreement valid and enforceable?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The Court noted that under Scherer v. Scherer, a trial court must consider three factors in determining the validity of an antenuptial agreement: (1) Was the agreement obtained through fraud, duress or mistake, or through misrepresentation or nondisclosure of material facts? (2) Is the agreement unconscionable? (3) Have the facts and circumstances changed since the agreement was executed, so as to make its enforcement unfair and unreasonable? Whether an agreement is enforceable in light of these criteria is a decision made in the trial court's sound discretion. The appellate court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding the agreement unenforceable under the first prong of the three-prong test for the enforceability of antenuptial agreements, as the husband failed to disclose his income to his wife. The appellate court found that it was undisputed that the agreement failed to disclose the husband's income and that the wife waived her right to seek alimony as part of the agreement. The husband's income, therefore, was material to the antenuptial agreement and would have been a critical factor in the wife's decision to waive alimony. Under the circumstances, the appellate court held that the antenuptial agreement was unconscionable and that the circumstances had changed so as to make enforcement of the agreement unfair and unreasonable.

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