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Antenuptial agreements are favored. Or. Rev. Stat. § 108.140. But the fiduciary relationship existing between fiancees requires good faith and a full and frank disclosure of all circumstances materially bearing on the contemplated agreement, generally including full disclosure of assets. The exercise of good faith necessitates disclosure by the prospective husband of all material facts relating to the amount, character and value of his property, so that the prospective wife may have sufficient knowledge on which to base her decision to enter into the agreement. Ultimately, however, the validity of an antenuptial agreement depends on the circumstances of each particular case and the degree of sophistication possessed by the party against whom the agreement is being enforced.
Just prior to their marriage, the husband and wife signed an antenuptial agreement and had it notarized. The document was subsequently lost, but the parties signed a duplicate and an affirmation, in which they acknowledged the original document was in full force and effect. At the time the parties began dating, the wife was 30 years old and the husband was 40 years old. Both had been married before. During the divorce proceedings, the trial court invalidated the agreement because no one had provided wife with a detailed explanation of the agreement before she signed it.
Was the antenuptial agreement valid?
On appeal, the court reversed and remanded because the agreement was valid when judged in the light of the circumstances and given the wife's range of experience. The court found that the wife had a good understanding of the nature of husband's assets and realized that the assets had substantial value, although she may not have known his precise net worth. The wife had an obligation to take steps to protect her own interests. She was reminded of the importance of the agreement each time she was readvised to seek counsel. In spite of that, according to her, she never once even attempted to read the agreement or seek counsel during the seven months from the time the agreement was presented to her and the time she signed it. Intentional ignorance, if there was ignorance, should not be a basis for voiding the agreement; to do so would allow her to profit from her own neglect and would only encourage others to enter into antenuptial agreements blindly. Instead of the Kosik case relied on by the wife to support her position, the court concluded that this case was much closer factually to Coward and Coward, supra. Consistent with that case, the court held that the antenuptial agreement was valid.