Park-Chappell v. Chappell
A court can find that a wife's receipt of inheritance money and assets during the marriage was not beyond the parties' contemplation at the time that they signed a prenuptial agreement. The parties met in 1986, when the wife worked as a marriage counselor, and married in 1991. The plaintiff wife, 67, has three children from a prior marriage and suffers from diabetes and glaucoma. The defendant husband, 61, worked as a director of employment until 1989 and then returned to school. He also suffers from diabetes. In 1997, the wife's father passed away, and the wife inherited $1.6 million and five irrevocable trusts, of which the wife is the trustee, valued at $4.12 million. The wife testified that when she inherited $1.6 million, she gave the husband $400,000. The husband spent most of the money, although he owns $148,000 in investments, musical instruments and a Pontiac. In July 2009, he was incarcerated for allegedly possessing child porn. Although the wife paid for defense attorneys and visited the husband while he was incarcerated, the marital relationship was damaged when the husband returned to the marital residence in July 2010. The court found the husband at greater fault for the breakdown of the marital relationship. The wife sought to enforce a prenuptial agreement, and the husband argued that enforcement would work an injustice. A prenuptial agreement signed prior to 1995 is enforceable if: 1.) the contract was validly entered into; 2.) the terms do not violate statute or public policy; and 3.) the circumstances at the time of dissolution are not so beyond the parties' contemplation at the time that they signed the prenuptial agreement as to work an injustice, if the agreement is enforced. "The duty of each party to disclose the amount, character, and value of individually owned property, absent the other's independent knowledge of the same, is an essential prerequisite to a valid ante-nuptial agreement containing a waiver of property rights," pursuant to McHugh v. McHugh, a 1980 decision of the Connecticut Supreme Court. The court rejected the husband's claim that the wife's receipt of inheritances during the marriage was beyond the parties' contemplation at the time that they signed the prenup. The wife fairly disclosed the existence of trusts and assets and her expectancy that she would inherit. The prenuptial agreement was validly entered into and did not violate statute or public policy. The court awarded the husband $140,000, as lump sum alimony, and a Pontiac.