Bartlett Pontiff Stewart & Rhodes PC

Two days before the parties were married in February, 2011, they executed a prenuptial agreement. In it the wife accepted an agreed-upon maintenance provision. The husband commenced a divorce action in 2019. The wife counterclaimed, seeking an award of maintenance and a judgment setting aside the agreement as invalid.

The husband moved for summary judgment requesting the court deem the agreement valid. The wife opposed the husband’s motion and cross-moved for an award of temporary maintenance and counsel fees. Acting Clinton County Supreme Court Justice Keith M. Bruno partially granted the husband’s motion and dismissed the wife’s second counterclaim disputing the validity of the agreement. Justice Bruno also denied her cross-motion seeking temporary maintenance.

In its June 9, 2022 decision in Spiegel v. Spiegel, the Appellate Division, Third Department, reversed, finding various issues of fact raised by the circumstances surrounding the execution of the agreement that precluded an award of summary judgment. The Court reported the wife’s allegations concerning the husband’s controlling conduct leading to the execution of the prenuptial agreement. The Court concluded:

We find that the foregoing facts, if established, raise issues concerning whether the wife was meaningfully represented during the abbreviated negotiations, and also raise an inference that the husband did not intend on engaging in a good faith negotiation of the agreement from the outset, which, if true, would be sufficient to establish overreaching on his part.

The Court also found that the wife was improperly denied temporary maintenance, invalidating the maintenance provision of the agreement for failing to comply with the requirements of Domestic Relations Law former §236(B)(5-a)(f).Continue Reading Temporary maintenance provisions in prenuptial agreements entered 2010 to 2015 must contain CSSA-type formula recitation