Select Page

Prenuptial Agreements Aren’t Always Valid & Enforceable on Long Island

by | Apr 3, 2018 | Prenuptial Agreement, NY

Validity of Prenuptial Agreement after Recent New York Appellate Division Case

For many couples on Long Island, having a Prenuptial Agreement drawn up before their marriage is a basic assumption of their relationship. Prenuptial agreements are an attempt, prior to marriage, to arrange the consequences of marriage and/or its dissolution. Prenuptial agreements can include terms of maintenance, ownership and division of property, as well as testamentary provisions. However, for the prenuptial agreement to stand up in court post-marriage and dictate the terms of dissolution, it must be found valid.

General Validity of Prenuptial Agreements

As previously mentioned, prenuptial agreements may contain provisions for the amount and duration of maintenance, commonly known as alimony or spousal support. Generally, for the court to enforce the prenuptial agreement, it must find the terms reasonable and fair. When specifically considering maintenance, the court will look to whether the waiver or the duration/amount of maintenance will make a person a charge of the state.

Unconscionability of Prenuptial Agreement

In January of this year, the New York Appellate Division for the Second Department heard Taha v. Elzemity. The case was an appeal from the trial court, holding that a prenuptial agreement was valid and enforceable. The facts of the case are as follows: shortly before the parties married in 2007, they entered into a prenuptial agreement. The agreement included provisions that stated each party waived the rights to the other’s separate property, each would keep separate bank accounts, and the husband’s maintenance obligation would be limited to one lump sum payment of $20,000. The husband had been practicing medicine since 1987 and was earning approximately $300,000 per year. The wife, who had worked in a part-time capacity prior to the marriage, had left the work force and focused on raising the party’s two young children.

When the husband initiated a divorce action in 2013, the wife brought a motion to set aside the prenuptial agreement as unconscionable. Although the trial court found the agreement to be valid, the Second Department reversed, holding that an agreement must be found unconscionable if it “is one which no person in his or her senses and not under delusion would make on the one hand, and no honest and fair person would accept on the other.” The court went on to further state that the agreement may be unconscionable at the time of signing, or, at the time of final judgment.

Here, the wife had sustained her burden in establishing that the prenuptial agreement was unconscionable at the time the action was before the court. If the court were to enforce the agreement between the parties, it was very likely that the wife would have become a charge on the state. She was unemployed, and had been for many years, was largely without assets and had been the children’s primary caregiver since their birth. Further considering the fact that the husband was making approximately $300,000 annually, a single lump sum payment of $20,000 was not fair or reasonable. Therefore, the court granted the wife’s motion and set aside the prenuptial agreement as unconscionable.

What Does This Mean for You?

If you are considering having a prenuptial agreement drawn up prior to your marriage, it is important that you recognize that life can take a different path than you expect. You can contract for certain provisions in your prenuptial agreement, but if the result of those provisions could cause your spouse to become a ward of the state (requiring them to apply for benefits they would not need otherwise), the agreement may be set aside by the court. This is one of the reasons why having an experienced attorney draw up your agreement so important. In order to preserve the provisions in your agreement, it needs to be properly drafted.

Need Help With a Prenuptial Agreement? Contact Us

If you are looking to protect your interests prior to your marriage, we can help. Contact our Long Island Divorce & Family Law firm at 631-923-1910 to set up your free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys who can help you to draft your prenuptial agreement.

For more information about Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements, please read Your Guide to Long Island Prenuptial & Postnuptial Agreements


Call 631-923-1910 or fill in the form below

Rob Chris Trans 1

Schedule your complimentary consultation and case evaluation with our experienced attorneys today. When you call, you’ll speak to our friendly Client Services Director, who will be able to answer your general questions and set up your appointment with an attorney who specializes in your unique case.

At your meeting, your attorney will describe the many options available and determine together which is the right solution for you. By the end of this meeting we’ll all understand how we can best help you to move forward.

No Cost or Obligation

There is no cost or obligation for this initial consultation. It is simply an opportunity for us to get to know each other, answer your questions and learn if Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C. is right the right law firm for you. Give us a call at 631-923-1910 or fill in the short form below to schedule your free consultation and case evaluation.

All Fields Are Required

Divorce Lawyer Long Island New York
Melissa Rappa
Melissa Rappa
18:09 08 Feb 24
At one of the hardest and most stressful times of my life, it was so comforting to have a team at Hornberger and Verbitsky who ALWAYS responded in record speed to my questions, phone calls, emails or texts and who I felt really cared about helping me through this difficult time. It was a long few years and I am grateful to all of you. Thank you so much Rob, AnneMarie, Christine, Patty, Joan and Lawrence. Your guidance, professionalism and expertise is appreciated beyond measure.
Paul Carmichael
Paul Carmichael
16:21 11 Dec 23
I would give 6 stars if I could. I can't say enough good things about Robert and his firm. We were in a situation for over 2 years and I could have never made it through without Robert's experience and knowledge. He guided me through tough times when needed and his expertise could "read" the situation and make the next best move for me. He was tough when he needed to be tough (thankfully) and at the same time guided me through the process to make me feel comfortable in an uncomfortable situation. I would not want to go through this process without Robert and his team having my back. he helped move the case along and not waste any time or money. One last time, I 100% endorse Robert and his expertise.
Child Support & Spousal Maintenance Tools
Robert E. Hornberger, Esq., P.C. respects your right to privacy. We will never sell your information to any third party. Follow this link to read our full privacy policy.