Virginia Prenuptial Agreement Premarital Fairfax County Court Divorce Lawyers Maryland Massachusetts Laws

Susan Shupe Donovan v. Patrick D. Donovan


51 Va. Cir. 34

September 28, 1999, Decided

When the couple began to discuss marriage, Patrick reiterated to Susan that he felt he had been poorly treated in his first divorce, in large part because he had been unable to prove what property was his and what property was his first wife’s. He stressed to Susan that he wanted them to draw up lists of their separate property so that it would be clear what each had brought into the marriage. Susan agreed with this proposal in concept and thought it fair. Patrick urged Susan to get an attorney to prepare a premarital agreement. As the wedding approached and no premarital agreement was forthcoming from Susan, Patrick asked his attorney to prepare one. The wedding date was set for October 15, 1994. A rehearsal dinner was scheduled for October 14, 1994.  On the evening of October 13, 1994, Patrick presented Susan with the pre-nuptial agreement that his attorney had prepared. He told Susan to review the agreement and that he would not marry her unless she signed the agreement. Patrick signed the agreement that evening. Susan went to bed that night without signing the agreement. The next morning Patrick reminded her that she needed to sign the agreement. Susan sat down, scanned the agreement again, and signed it.  Patrick and Susan married on October 15, 1994. After a marriage of four years and no children, they separated in 1998. Susan now seeks to void the pre-nuptial agreement because she did not sign it voluntarily and because it is unconscionable. Finally, she asserts that she did not understand the implications of waiving her right to a lump sum award of spousal support.

Whether Susan has rebutted the presumption that she entered into the agreement voluntarily?

Whether premarital agreement is unconscionable?

Whether Susan has rebutted the presumption that she entered into the agreement voluntarily?

In this case, the Court does not find the absence of independent legal advice to Susan to be fatal to the voluntariness of the agreement. She had been urged by Patrick to get an attorney to prepare the agreement. Thus, both the concept of a premarital agreement and the basic parameters of the premarital agreement were well known to Susan long before she was presented with the agreement on the eve of the rehearsal dinner.  For the same reasons, the Court does not find that the presentation of the agreement to Susan a mere two days before the wedding renders involuntary Susan’s execution of the agreement.  Patrick’s “threat” not to marry Susan unless she signed the agreement does not render the agreement involuntary on Susan’s part.  There is nothing offensive or sinister in Patrick’s unwillingness to remarry without a prenuptial agreement. His “threat” not to marry her without a premarital agreement did not vitiate the voluntariness of her signing the agreement.  For the foregoing reasons, the Court finds that Susan has not rebutted the presumption that she signed the agreement voluntarily.

Whether premarital agreement is unconscionable?

The agreement itself identifies each of Patrick’s businesses and assets, although it does not attempt to place a monetary value on any asset. Susan was intimately involved in Patrick’s various businesses, to the extent that she frequently helped him with maintaining their books and records. She knew the nature and extent of his assets.  Furthermore, in the agreement, Susan acknowledged that she had received “full disclosure” of Patrick’s “means, resources, and assets.” In fact, Susan does not contend that Patrick misled her in any way about the nature or extent of his assets.  For the foregoing reasons, the Court does not find Patrick and Susan’s premarital agreement to be unconscionable.

The court held that the pre-nuptial agreement was valid and enforceable because Susan had signed it voluntarily and the agreement was not unconscionable.


These summaries are provided by the SRIS Law Group.  They represent the firm’s unofficial views of the Justices’ opinions.  The original opinions should be consulted for their authoritative content

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The SRIS Law Group is a law firm with offices in Virginia, Maryland & Massachusetts.  The law firm assists clients with criminal/traffic defense, family law, immigration, civil litigation, bankruptcy & military law.  The law firm has Virginia offices in Fairfax County, Richmond, Virginia Beach, Loudoun County, Prince William County & Fredericksburg, Virginia.  The Maryland offices are in Montgomery County & Baltimore.  The Massachusetts offices are in Boston & Cambridge.
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