The Terms of Postnuptial Agreement was Enforceable Because Husband Supplied All the Funds Necessary to Purchase House
In the family law, equitable distribution, postnuptial agreement case of Matoka v. Maatka, PICS Case No. 14-1472 (C.P. Jefferson, August 27, 2014), the Honorable John Foradora ruled that the terms of an agreement entered into by husband and wife after marriage regarding the marital property was an enforceable contract with sufficient legal consideration.
In 1992, plaintiff husband and defendant wife executed an agreement concerning the marital residence shortly after they moved into it. The agreement contained specific language directing that: (1) plaintiff paid for the home with funds acquired prior to his marriage to defendant; (2) the residence was not to be considered marital property in the event of divorce; and, (3) if divorce occurred, defendant was to execute any deed necessary to transfer ownership of the property solely to plaintiff and make no claims against it.
The parties divorced in 2013. Plaintiff sent defendant notice in which he asked her to execute a deed pursuant to the terms on the agreement. She refused. Plaintiff brought this suit to compel defendant to transfer the property to his name alone.
Defendant argued that the agreement was an unenforceable contract for want of consideration and because she was under duress when she signed it. Plaintiff argued that the contract was a postnuptial agreement and that mutual promises were binding between the parties and formed sufficient legal consideration in and of themselves.
The court disagreed with the premise, adopted by both sides, that the agreement was postnuptial in the legally relevant sense. Postnuptial agreements reflect “the parties’ desire to settle and determine their respective property rights finally and for all time.” In this instance, the agreement addressed how a single piece of property would be disposed of in the event of a divorce. A prima facie reading of the agreement clearly indicated that it was solely about the property, not about the parties’ property rights in general.
The court noted that in either event, defendant, who asserted as a defense that plaintiff’s failure to fully and fairly disclose his financial circumstances waived her right to any disclosure, because she failed to raise such a defense in her answer. Moreover, defendant waived the defense of duress by failing to plead it in her original answer. Representing herself in the matter was not a means to avoid her contractual obligations. Defendant failed to meet her burden of proof to establish lack or failure of consideration. By supplying all the funds necessary for the purchase of the house, plaintiff “provided tangible consideration in exchange for defendant’s promise to later deed it back in the even of one of the occurrences specified in the agreement.” According to the terms of the agreement, plaintiff had the right to exclusive ownership of the property.
Reference: Digest of Recent Opinions, Pennsylvania Law Weekly, 37 PLW 915 (September 23, 2014)
Filed Under: Family Law, Postnuptial Agreement; Marital Property