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Recent case sheds light on Illinois prenuptial agreements

Recent case sheds light on Illinois prenuptial agreements

Date: March 21, 2013
In: Divorce

At the end of a marriage, a couple must sort their assets into marital and non-marital property, and divide the marital property in a way that meets Illinois’ courts standards of equitable division. This process of property division can be very difficult and time-consuming.

In an effort to get around property division headaches, an increasing number of couples are choosing to sign prenuptial agreements, in effect deciding before they’re married how to split their assets in the event of a divorce.

Recently, a woman won a court challenge against the pre-nuptial agreement she signed with her millionaire ex-husband before their 1998 wedding. The woman said the man had originally asked her to sign an agreement that, in the event of a divorce, she would receive only a flat rate of $25,000 per year of the marriage. She initially refused to sign, but she relented a few days before the wedding after she says he promised to rip up the document once the couple had children. The couple went through with the wedding and later had three children, but the husband never destroyed the agreement.

When the couple did divorce years later, the man tried to rely on the original agreement, offering the woman $25,000 per year of the marriage. She argued that the man fraudulently got her to sign the agreement because he never had any intention of tearing up the agreement after they had children. A lower court agreed with her, and when the ex-husband appealed, the appellate court upheld the lower court’s ruling.

This couple’s divorce occurred in a different state and Illinois has its own laws regarding property division and prenuptial agreements. However, the case does illustrate some general principles about prenuptial agreements that apply to Illinois couples.

To be enforceable, a prenuptial agreement must be in writing and must be signed before the wedding. Partners can’t be pressured into signing the agreement, they must read it and they must have time to consider it. A prenuptial agreement is invalid when it is based on false or incomplete information or when it contains unlawful provisions.

Source: ABC News, “Long Island Woman Wins ‘Groundbreaking’ Prenup Battle,” Joanna Suarez, March 11, 2013

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