James Stewart, at age 24, was married with three children, and owned a successful construction business. He was worth about two million dollars. Then he met 26 year old Barbara Stewart, who worked at a day care center for minimum wage. Her only asset was a vehicle worth about $500. They had an affair, lived together for a year, and eventually married in 1988 after James got his divorce.
Four days before the wedding James and Barbara signed a prenuptial agreement. Twenty one years later they divorced and Barbara challenged the agreement claiming she signed it under duress, without counsel, without full disclosure, and that the agreement was unfair.
The trial court upheld the agreement and the Maryland Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The court said that four days was enough time to consult with a lawyer and that it was her choice not to do so.
While the agreement did not disclose an IRA worth $60,000 and it did not list values for the assets nor their total, the court found that the agreement and Barbara’s knowledge of the assets from living with James were sufficient disclosure to let her know she was giving up something significant by signing the agreement.
The court also found that she had not waived alimony nor a marital award in the prenup. In fact, she settled the divorce for over a million dollars. So, the court said, the prenup was not unfair.
Stewart v. Stewart, Maryland Court of Special Appeals (October 3, 2013)