Couples who are considering marriage often take the step of entering into a premarital contract, also known as a prenuptial agreement or “prenup,” so that each of the parties to the marriage understand and agree beforehand on the handling of financial matters should it end in divorce. The idea behind such agreements is to avoid confusion and misunderstandings regarding property in an effort to make finances as much of a non-issue as possible during and after the marriage. As illustrated by the court battle surrounding the divorce of Ken and Anne Griffin, prenups cannot stop one party of a marriage from challenging its validity. This is all the more reason to have an experienced and knowledgeable Florida Family Law Attorney assist you in the drafting of your premarital agreement.
Ken Griffin, the billionaire CEO of Citadel LLC, a Chicago-based hedge fund, and his wife, Anne Griffin, are embroiled in a bitter high-profile divorce. The Griffins, whose primary residence was in Chicago, IL, also own homes in Miami Beach, FL; Aspen, CO; Kona, HI; and New York City. At issue in the divorce is the validity of the couple’s prenuptial agreement. The basis of Ms. Griffin’s challenge is a fairly common one, namely that Mr. Griffin used coercion to get her to sign it. She alleges that she was unwilling to sign the agreement but was pressured by Mr. Griffin to the point that the couple had an argument three days prior to the wedding in which Mr. Griffin because angry and violent and broke some furniture. They subsequently went to see a psychologist with whom Mr. Griffin had a professional relationship, and the psychologist agreed with Ken that Anne was being difficult. Ms. Griffin, believing the psychologist to be neutral, signed the agreement the next day, only three hours prior to the wedding rehearsal dinner. Mr. Griffin’s attorneys have responded by stating that Ms. Griffin had the counsel of three prominent law firms who made changes to the agreement on her behalf. He also asserts that she received $25 million at the time of signing and $1 million per year after that. In addition, Mr. Griffin alleges that she received payments of $20 million in 2005, $6 million in 2009, and $5 million in 2011.
The challenge of “coercion” is one of the statutory bases for invalidating a prenuptial agreement in Florida, as well as in other states. Florida Statute 61.079(7)(a) allows several bases for invalidation: involuntariness; fraud, duress, coercion, or overreaching; and unconscionability. Typically, fraud or duress could be established if one party was threatened psychologically or physically to sign the prenup, or if the agreement were presented to the other party for the first time one or two days before the wedding. Ms. Griffin has presented some facts in her favor, but ultimately the court will have to weigh all the issues to determine if she willingly entered into the agreement or if it truly was the result of coercion.
If you wish to sign a premarital agreement before entering into a marriage, the services of a Florida Family Law Attorney are indispensable. It is important to understand the legal issues surrounding this type of an agreement, so that you have a clear understanding of its effect. It is also important to make the final agreement as ironclad as possible against legal challenges. The Law Offices of James S. Cunha, P.A. serve clients in Jupiter, West Palm Beach, Wellington, Boca Raton, Palm Beach, and the surrounding areas of Broward, Palm Beach, and Martin Counties, assisting individuals with all their family law needs. Please contact us at (561) 429-3924 or via email at [email protected] to schedule a consultation.