The Massachusetts Appeals Court has issued a Rule 1:28 Memorandum and Order in a divorce case entitled Roof v. Abelowitz upholding the validity and enforceability of a prenuptial agreement that the wife signed only one day prior to the wedding. The court considered two particularly interesting factors in finding that the wife’s waiver of rights under the prenuptial agreement was valid. In this case, the size and formality of the wedding and the prior married and divorced status of the wife carried weight.
Regarding the size and formality of the wedding, the court stated “[w]here the wedding was small and informal, the wife had ample time when presented with the final version of the agreement the day before the wedding to review it and fully grasp its terms.” Arguably a case involving a large and formal wedding, but one where a wedding planner does all the work to organize the celebration on behalf of a minimally distracted “wife-or-husband-to-be” could lead to the same result. The question in Roof seems to be how much was the wife able to focus on whatever her independent counsel at the time was telling her regarding the waiver of rights for which the husband was bargaining under the proposed prenuptial agreement. In other words, signing a prenuptial agreement the day before the wedding could result in an unenforceable contract because of how distracted that individual might have been with such things as a huge guest list, complicated seating arrangements, last-minute cancelations from the florist and the band, and problems with accommodations for guests arriving from overseas. Is that person, on the day before the wedding, as a result of the size and formality of the wedding, so distracted that he or she is unable to focus on and understand a waiver of important rights under a prenuptial agreement?
Finally, with respect to the wife’s marital history prior to signing the prenuptial agreement, the court stated “[a]dditionally, both the wife and the husband had been previously married and divorced, and, therefore, had previous experience with their rights under the law.” Although there were no findings about the complexity of the prior divorce proceeding, the specific issues that were raised during the prior divorce, and whether those same issues were the subject of the wife’s waivers under the prenuptial agreement, the wife’s prior experience with divorce was a factor the court considered in finding that the wife understood the effect of her waiver of rights under the prenuptial agreement.