MN Supreme Court tosses prenup signed under wedding pressure

The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday settled Kremer vs. Kremer, the messy divorce case I wrote about in January 2017, a somewhat mysterious case about a man who secretly had an antenuptial agreement drawn up in the days before he and his wife’s destination wedding in the Cayman Islands, then gave it to his bride-to-be two days before the wedding. Who could possibly have predicted love wouldn’t last?

She worked some part-time jobs while he worked the farm which came to be worth a fortune. When she filed for divorce, she argued the prenup was invalid because it was signed under duress.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals found that Robbie Kremer “intentionally ‘used the wedding deadline to create an atmosphere of pressure’ under which Michelle was ‘pressured/coerced’ into signing the Agreement.”

Today, a divided Minnesota Supreme Court agreed.

The couple’s deal waived any spousal maintenance or alimony, a “one sided” proposition, Justice David Lillehaug wrote on behalf of the majority.

Here, Robbie came into the relationship with significant assets which increased in value over the course of the marriage, and Michelle came into the marriage with very little. If the Agreement were enforced, she would leave the marriage with very little.

Yet Michelle contributed to Robbie’s farm operation throughout the marriage, maintained the household, and cared for the couple’s child. We cannot conclude that the consideration Michelle received for executing this Agreement was anywhere near adequate.

Lillehaug said Robbie intentionally created a situation where Michelle was coerced into signing the agreement. All of their family and friends had booked flights to the Cayman Islands, and she wasn’t able to get proper counsel before joining them. So she signed.

In his dissent, Justice G. Barry Anderson said the district court did not find that Michelle signed under duress.

“The district court found that Robbie intended to create that effect,” he wrote. “But the district court did not find that Michelle’s will was actually overborne by the circumstances Robbie created. Rather, the district court found that Michelle did not have ‘an adequate opportunity to negotiate any of the terms of the . . . agreement.’”

An earlier dissent by a Court of Appeals judges said the ruling would invalidate the very reason there are such agreements in the first place.