Family Law: LANE V. LANE (SC 9/21/2006)

FAMILY LAW:  Antenuptial agreement (waiver of maintenance)

DATE RENDERED: 9/21/2006

Opinion by Lambert reversed the COA and affirmed the TC finding that the waiver of maintenance was unconscionable at the time the enforcement of the agreement was sought. The agreement was signed 3 days before marriage (they were 26 and 29). Wife earned $19k per year and he earned $166k. When the divorce petition was filed (2002) the wife was a stay-at-home mom (2 kids) and the husband earned a million a year.

Lambert noted, "The more one sided an agreement appears at the time it is made, the more likely courts are to invalidate the agreement at the time enforcement is sought." He said that their situation was very different from "customary and proper" ante-nuptial agreements ("…where parties desire to preserve their assets for their children and grandchildren.) Their agreement will be enforced BUT "subject to judicial scrutiny for unconscionability."

An attorney fees were affirmed but the entire issue of fees was remanded to the TC to determine if fees for the appellate process should be granted.

Graves wrote for the concurring opinion (joined by Roach and Wintersheimer) and stated: "The ante-nuptial agreement in this case is fundamentally unfair in large part because it accords almost no consideration for the wife’s contributions as a homemaker in this marriage."

McAnulty dissents saying: "I cannot agree…that the amount she received will not support her while she sensibly and responsibly pursues her career interests. Nor can I agree that affluent lifestyle as opposed to a comfortable lifestyle…should necessarily render the maintenance provision unconscionable." 

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