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NY Family Law: Prenuptial Agreements, Bad Choices and Unconscionably

Young couple in quarrel at home

If you are making a bad decision, does that automatically mean that it was not a meaningful decision?  The Court in Barocas v. Barocas, 94 A.D.3d 551 (1st Dept. 2012) sure thought not.  Arguing that the prenuptial agreement is unconscionable is a way to have the agreement declared invalid.  In Barocas, the parties disclosed all of their assets and the agreement provided for the husband retaining almost all of the property.  Both parties had counsel and the wife was advised that the agreement was unfair to her, but signed the agreement anyway.

Although courts award greater protection to parties to a prenuptial agreement because they are contracts between close parties, the warning by her attorney enabled her to make a meaningful choice by signing the agreement despite this warning.  The Court held that even though the agreement was clearly one-sided, it was not found to be unconscionable.  Specifically, “[a]n unconscionable contract is one ‘which is so grossly unreasonable as to be unenforceable because of an absence of meaningful choice on part of one of the parties together with contract terms which are unreasonably favorable to the other party’” (Barocas at 552, citing King v. Fox, 818 N.Y.S.2d 833 (N.Y. 2006).  The fact that the wife was advised that it was an unfair contract and still with that knowledge made a meaningful decision to sign the document prevented her from challenging the prenuptial agreement on the grounds of unconscionability.

"This blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. It is recommended that you speak to an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction before relying on the information in this blog."

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