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Prenuptials Signed Under Duress or Coercion

By Nottage and Ward on October 20, 2014

When it comes to highlighting the need for a focused, well-executed and thoroughly acknowledged prenuptial agreement, you need only look to the current high-profile proceedings between Citadel CEO, Ken Griffin and his wife Anne Dias-Griffin.

Beginning in July of this year, Mr. Griffin filed to dissolve his 11-year marriage in Illinois state court, citing irreconcilable differences between the two. Mr. Griffin also asserted the couple’s prenuptial agreement outlined the final terms of the divorce and, in fact, it has been actively utilized since the start of their marriage.

However, in early September, Anne Dias-Griffin shot back by claiming the agreement had been established under duress and she was coerced into signing on the day of the couple’s wedding dinner rehearsal. While the terms of the contract afforded Ms. Griffin over $35 million in guaranteed payments and 50 percent ownership of their $11 million Chicago home over the past decade, she insists Mr. Griffin is also responsible for continued financial support of her and their three children. As founder of one of the most successful international investment firms based in the United States, Ken Griffin’s present estimated net worth scales around $3 billion.

In recent days, Mr. Griffin has petitioned the courts to make a final verdict on the couple’s prenuptial agreement and alleviate the “uncertainty so as to avoid potential litigation.”

In the state of Illinois, prenuptial agreements are designed to head-off many of the typical disputes that couples may encounter should they choose to separate. Questions of property division and maintenance can be definitively answered long before a court is petitioned. This can be especially useful when there are large sums of money, preexisting business ventures and children from a previous marriage to consider.

However, aggravating factors during the agreements development can render it null and void. Most importantly, was the prenuptial agreed upon without coercion, threats of retaliation or duress? Did both individuals sign the document of their own cognizance? If not, it will be up to the representing attorney to prove without a doubt that the prenuptial was founded unfairly and therefore non-binding.

To prevent such contentions, it is critical to retain counsel that has more than just a working knowledge of these types of agreements. Prenuptials are complex documents that require a keen eye for legal detail, a mastery of the process, and a desire to thoroughly represent an individual’s needs both now and in the future. The family law firm of Nottage and Ward, LLP has assisted many couples with developing well-crafted and mutually agreeable prenuptials. Contact our Chicago based practice if you have any questions or concerns about a potential contract or previously established one.

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