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Prenup Tossed When Husband Failed to Disclose Condo with Ex

Jessica Luna

May 1, 2022

Why Telling The Truth Matters

Tennessee case summary on enforcement of prenuptial agreements in divorce.

Deborah Jean Walker v. Barry Lyle Walker

Five days before their 1996 wedding, the husband and wife in this Williamson County, Tennessee, case executed an antenuptial agreement. They were both represented by an attorney, and the wife’s attorney drafted the agreement. Before they signed, the wife’s attorney instructed both to exchange a list of their separate properties, including the approximate values.

A few months later, the wife was working on property taxes, and discovered that the husband owned a condominium with his former girlfriend. According to the wife, problems with this girlfriend had almost derailed the marriage, and the wife decided not to take action at that time about her discovery.

The wife filed for divorce in 2001, but the parties resolved their differences and dismissed the case. The wife filed again in 2007, but the case was suspended when the husband was injured in a motorcycle accident. The case resumed in 2015.

Between the two divorce cases, the husband sold the condominium, and the wife participated in this transaction.

The husband moved for summary judgment, seeking a declaration that the antenuptial agreement was valid. The wife pointed to the husband’s failure to disclose his interest in the condominium. The husband’s motion was denied. The trial was bifurcated, with the first half covering the validity of the agreement. The husband argued that he had simply made a mistake, and the omission was minor.

The husband testified that he had participated in the purchase of the condo after he broke up with the girlfriend, but thought he was only a guarantor, and not a co-owner. A friend of the husband, however, testified that the husband had bought the condo with the intention of living with the girlfriend. He had told the friend that the purchase had to remain a secret.

After listening to the testimony, the trial court did not credit the husband’s version. It found that the husband hadn’t entered the agreement in good faith, and that the ownership had been deliberately concealed.

The husband then appealed this finding to the Tennessee Court of Appeals. The appeals court noted that such agreements are enforceable only if certain requirements are met. In particular, they must be made with full knowledge and in good faith. In this case, the trial court had held that the nondisclosure showed the husband’s lack of good faith.

The appeals court pointed out that the trial court hadn’t credited the husband’s testimony that it was an honest mistake. And it found no reason to overturn that credibility determination. Since the husband had the burden of proof to show that he had disclosed everything, the agreement could not be found valid.

The appeals court also held that the husband couldn’t prevail on a theory that the wife had ratified the agreement after the marriage. It pointed out that even though the wife cooperated with the disposal of the property, this did not demonstrate that she had ratified the earlier agreement.

For these reasons, the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision and remanded the case.

No. M2018-01140-COA-R9-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Jan. 31, 2020).

TN prenuptial agreement invalid when husband didn’t disclose ownership of condo.

See original opinion for exact language. Legal citations omitted.

To learn more, see Prenuptial Agreement: Pros and Cons in Tennessee Divorce Law.

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