On December 12, 2008, the Appellate Division released a reported decision in the case of Rogers v. Gordon which addressed the enforceability of a pre-statute prenuptial agreement. To review the full text of the case, click here. The case is interesting because it addresses again the standards to be applied to an agreement signed before the enactment of the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act in NJ.
In this case, the parties entered into a prenuptial agreement as a young couple. The wife was a graduate of the Wharton School of Business and came from a wealthy family. The husband was a high school graduate working for the Postal Service.
The parties married in 1981, had four children and were married for more than 24 years before the wife sought a divorce. During the marriage, the wife went to work for her father’s business, which she eventually purchased from him during the marriage. In 1990, the husband left the Postal Service to work as a machine operator for the business. In 2002, he was promoted to plant supervisor. Not surprisingly, when the divorce commenced, he was demoted to a machine operator again. The trial court made a finding that at the end of the divorce, there was not a "snowball’s chance" that he was going to keep the job given the wife’s intense animosity for him evidence during the trial. In fact, the judge found her to be totally incredible regarding this topic.
At the time of the divorce, the husband’s income was $63,000 – the wife’s was more the $600,000.
The Uniform Premarital Agreement Act was enacted in NJ in 1998 and applies to all agreements entered into after its enactment. As such, because the agreement in this case was entered into prior to the Act, the Court had to apply the case law from prior to the act.
In citing the Marschall case, the court noted that there was a three prong test for enforceability, as follows: 1) there was full financial disclosure; 2) that the party sought to be bound knew and understood the terms and conditions and 3) that the agreement, be fair and not unconscionable, ie. that it not leave a spouse a public charge or close to it, or with a lifestyle far below what was enjoyed before or during the marriage.
The court also cited the D’Onofrio case which said that the alimony provisions in the agreement need not cover all contingencies because the Lepis or change of circumstances standard would apply.
Continue Reading The Appellate Division Rules on a Pre-Act Prenuptial Agreement