Fraud: Invalidating Premarital and Postmarital Agreements in Pennsylvania

Fraud – a material misrepresentation to induce someone to do something – can invalidate a Pennsylvania marital agreement.

The law presumes that marital agreements between adults in Pennsylvania are valid absent fraud, coercion, or duress. Even agreements between husband and wife. But what is fraud?

What is Fraud?

In the context of marital agreements, fraud is a material misrepresentation of a fact to induce someone to enter into the agreement. In Simeone v. Simeone, 525 Pa. 392, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court stated that fraud is “a material misrepresentation in the inducement for entering a prenuptial agreement.”

How to Defeat a Claim of Fraud

Because marital agreements are presumed to be valid absent fraud, coercion, or duress, it is the responsibility of the party challenging the agreement to prove fraud, coercion, or duress. In Simeone, husband and wife were married. The evening prior to the marriage, husband’s attorney presented wife with a prenup agreement. The agreement severely limited any payments husband would have to make to wife in the event of a divorce. The agreement disclosed all of husband’s assets. The court upheld the prenup agreement because it contained a “full and fair” disclosure of assets.

So, how do you defeat a claim of fraud in the context of marital agreements? One way is to make a full and fair disclosure of assets. Full and fair disclosure of financial assets is required. A marital agreement should contain a clause providing that full and fair disclosure has been made. The agreement should also be accompanied by an exhibit outlining all assets of the parties. However, the disclosure does not have to be exact so long as it is full and fair. Disclosure only has to be sufficient to allow a party to obtain further information of the other party’s estate.

Drafting a Marital Agreement

Marital agreements are tricky. In addition to “full and fair disclosure”, there are many other clauses that should be included. So, it is best to not attempt to draft one on your own.

If you are interested in having a prenup drafted, contact the Pittsburgh divorce lawyers at Dodaro, Matta, & Cambest, P.C. today at 412-243-1600 to schedule a consultation. We can make sure that your Pennsylvania prenup agreement has all of the required language to stand up against any charges of fraud.

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