In re Marriage of Shanks

758 N.W.2d 506 (Iowa 2008)



Iowa Code § 596.8(1) requires only that a premarital agreement be executed voluntarily. Neither the Iowa Uniform Premarital Agreement Act (IUPAA) nor the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act defines the term "voluntarily." Proof of duress or undue influence is required under Iowa Code § 596.8(1) to establish a premarital agreement was involuntarily executed. Although the voluntariness requirement of Iowa Code § 596.8 does not incorporate the concept of knowing execution, this concept is not irrelevant to the determination of enforceability of a premarital agreement under the IUPAA. Under the IUPAA, a party's knowing and understanding execution of a premarital agreement is a factor in the procedural unconscionability determination.


While contemplating a second marriage for both parties, the husband and wife discussed the goal of preserving the husband's assets for his children. The wife agreed to enter a premarital agreement, stating that she was not marrying the husband for his money. The premarital agreement was presented to the wife ten days before their wedding, and she consulted an attorney for the first draft upon the husband's advice. She failed to seek counsel before executing the second draft.  A few years later, the husband filed for divorce and sought to enforce the agreement.  The trial court refused to enforce the agreement, and the intermediate appellate court affirmed.  The husband filed an appeal. 


Did the trial court err in refusing to enforce the prenuptial agreement? 




The court reversed and remanded.  It conducted a de novo review and found that the agreement was voluntarily executed, conscionable, and enforceable, which were required by the Iowa Uniform Premarital Agreement Act (IUPAA), Iowa Code § 596.12. The wife failed to establish duress or undue influence to prove that the agreement was involuntarily executed. The husband's position as a lawyer did not put him in a vastly superior bargaining position because he insisted that the wife seek the advice of independent counsel. The agreement also was not substantively or procedurally unconscionable because all of the provisions were mutual in scope, the wife assented, and she voluntarily declined to seek Iowa legal counsel on the second draft. Financial disclosures were fair and reasonable under Iowa Code § 596.8(3).

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