RI Prenup Valid Despite Unconscionability

All too often, one bride or groom-to-be calls to set up an appointment to review a prenup – a few days before their wedding. As often as not, they cancel their appointment at the last minute.

From offhand remarks they make, it seems they have “spoken to some friends and relatives” and “they have concluded” that they have nothing to worry about.

“I’m signing the agreement at the last minute. I’m actually better off for not consulting an attorney. I’m really not too sure what my fiance’s assets are – but I’m not marrying them for their money anyway.”

And so on.

Those folks would probably cringe over a recent Rhode Island decision. The bride in that case was not represented by counsel, but the groom was. The couple signed the agreement just four days before the wedding. The groom’s major assets were listed – but their values weren’t.

The agreement contained typical, but empty, boilerplate language reciting that the parties had made full disclosure, that they were satisfied with it, and that they had had adequate opportunity to review it.

The trial court refused to enforce the agreement on the grounds that it was unconsionable, the groom had not made full disclosure and that, therefore, the bride’s execution was involuntary. But that was the trial court.

On appeal, the Rhode Island Supreme Court agreed that the agreement was unconsionable – but reversed, upholding the unconsionable agreement.

In everyday language, the Rhode Island high court held that: if you signed it, you’re going to have to live with it.

And that is not inconsistent with the modern jurisprudence regarding prenups, absent fraud.

While there was some reported language suggesting that the holding was based at least in part on the wife’s failure to meet her burden of proof as to her allegations, the tone of the report suggests that the wife would have had to have proved fraud to satisfy the appellate court.

Read more in this Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly article: RI Supreme Court rules prenup agreement valid despite unconscionability.