Husband and wife executed a premarital agreement four or five hours before the wedding. That, by itself, will not invalidate a premarital agreement. But obtaining a future spouse's signature by "trick" or "artifice" will invalidate a premarital agreement, said the Dallas Court of Appeals in Moore v. Moore, No. 05-10-00498-CV (Tex. App. - Dallas July 3, 2012, n.p.h.).
The evidence at the parties' divorce trial included that:
- Husband misrepresented his financial condition to wife.
- Husband falsely claimed he wanted wife to sign a premarital agreement to protect her from "loans, liens, and lawsuits."
- Husband suggested wife retain her own lawyer at his expense, but vetoed wife's first two choices as too expensive and directed wife to a lawyer he chose for her.
- Husband prevented wife's lawyer from reviewing the final premarital agreement by misrepresenting to wife for several days, until just before the wedding, that husband did not have the premarital agreement.
- The premarital agreement falsely stated that husband had given wife full disclosure of the nature, extent and value of husband's assets.
- Husband falsely represented to wife that wife's lawyer had approved the premarital agreement and said that it was "okay" for her to sign it.
Husband argued that wife could not challenge the premarital agreement because the agreement recited that wife's attorney had reviewed the agreement, that wife had read and understood the agreement, and that wife was signing the agreement voluntarily.
The Dallas Court rejected this argument. The Court acknowledged that unless prevented by trick or artifice, a person who signs a contract "must be held to have known what words were used in the contract and to have know their meaning, and he must also be held to have known and fully comprehend the legal effect of the contract." But this rule does not apply to premarital agreements because the Texas Family Code states that a premarital agreement is not enforceable if it is not voluntarily signed. Husband could not prevent wife from making this showing "by including recitations in the very agreement that she alleges was not voluntarily signed."