Table of Contents
In the Arizona Court of Appeals case of Austin v. Austin, the court determined the validity of an arbitration clause that requires parties to have a third party arbitrator settle their dispute if there is a disagreement. This arbitration clause in the agreement between the spouses that created a company to hold their assets. The nature of the property transactions, in this case, are involved, requiring a review of the background facts.
Attacking a Postnuptial Agreement: Facts of the Case
In 1982, Mr. Austin (“Mr. Austin” or “Husband”) married his wealthy (“Wife”), and he took over her financial affairs. With Wife’s understanding, the Husband formed a holding company that helped manage the extensive assets owned by Wife before the marriage.
The wife made clear that certain assets are to be transferred to her children (from a previous marriage) at future dates. During the party’s marriage, Wife admitted that it was her practice to trust her husband, and sign what her husband presented to her without reviewing it or consulting with legal or financial advisors.
In fact, Wife admits that she was not advised on the operating agreement, its arbitration clause, or its effects on her rights or property. In 1996 an asset holding company was formed. In that same period, Husband testified that he gave Wife only the signature page of the 1997 operating agreement, instructing her to sign it. In 2000, he presented her with a document creating a Family Revocable Trust.
Once again, Wife was not advised that this trust document might change or transfer her sole and separate property into community property. Nor was she warned of the potential ramifications involved, should a divorce occur.
As of 1997 Wife’s separate assets were valued at approximately $58 million dollars. In 2005, the Husband once again provided Wife with the signature page only, for an Amended Restated Operating Agreement for the couple’s asset holding company.
The wife was not provided with the text of the new, amended operating agreement, and signed it based on her husband’s direction. This arrangement allowed Husband to assume control of Wife’s assets, giving him community property rights to some of them, and control over all of the property of Wife, while undoing the effect of the irrevocable trusts she had set up for her children.
The operating agreements, which created the company, contained clauses requiring arbitration of disputes. The wife signed them without reading or otherwise paying attention, trusting in her husband to watch out for her and her children’s best interests.
When the Wife filed for divorce, disputes concerning the company came up. The husband moved to force arbitration of these disputes per the terms of the operating agreements, and the trial court denied it. The husband appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s order.
Attacking a Postnuptial Agreement: Facts of the Case: Argument of the Facts and Law
In the former Arizona Supreme Court of In re Harber’s Estate, the Supreme Court held that postnuptial agreements are valid but that if one spouse challenges an agreement, then the burden is on the other to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that it was not fraudulent, coerced, unfair, or inequitable.
The trial court used this standard in denying Husband’s motion. The husband’s position was that standard contract law should apply, under which Wife is presumed to know what she signed, even if she did not read it. The rule from the In re Harber’s Estate case had only been applied to post-nuptial property settlements; Husband argued that it should be limited to post-nuptial agreements.
It was pointed out by the appellate court that the holding company’s effects “were no less severe than a traditional post-nuptial property division agreement.” The appeals court found that because the agreements were made during the marriage ‘and altered each spouse’s property rights in the event of death’ they were post-nuptial agreements subject to the ruling in In re Harber’s Estate.
Combating a Postnuptial Agreement in Arizona
The husband’s argument was based on this type of contract requiring separate counsel for spouses that create trusts “or other complex estate documents.” The lower court and appellate court responses appear to question the Husband’s true intentions and, why such an inquiry is necessary or supported by the law.
Mothers’ two separate children were parties to the agreements because of their rights in those named trusts; however, it was ruled by the trial court that the children were not bound by the arbitration agreement because they had not signed it.
Moreover, the court held that the children’s rights had been reduced, in violation outlined in the agreements. The husband also argued that the Wife and her two children were not allowed by law to dispute the arbitration clause. The Court ruled against the Husband. The children were not parties to the agreement.
Attacking a Postnuptial Agreement: Facts of the Case: Ruling of the Court
The record, in this case, produced no evidence of a benefit or exchange of promises between the Husband and the children, and the children did not receive benefits that they were not already entitled to receive as beneficiaries.
The Appellate Court found that the children would not benefit at all from the asset holding company’s amended operating agreement and their interests were detrimentally impacted by the Husband’s efforts to transfer the children’s assets into the asset holding company without their knowledge.
If you have questions about attacking a postnuptial agreement in an Arizona divorce case, you should seriously consider contacting the attorneys at Hildebrand Law, PC. Our Arizona divorce and family law attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience successfully representing clients in divorce and family law cases.
Our family law firm has earned numerous awards such as US News and World Reports Best Arizona Family Law Firm, US News and World Report Best Divorce Attorneys, “Best of the Valley” by Arizona Foothills readers, and “Best Arizona Divorce Law Firms” by North Scottsdale Magazine.
Call us today at (480)305-8300 or reach out to us through our appointment scheduling form to schedule your personalized consultation and turn your Arizona divorce or family law case around today.
More Articles About Divorce in Arizona
- The advantage of Filing Divorce First in Arizona
- Are Prenuptial Agreements Enforceable in Arizona
- Arizona Divorce
- Arizona Divorce Attorney Reviews
- Arizona Divorce Child Custody
- Arizona Divorce Debt
- Arizona Divorce Forms
- Arizona Divorce Laws
- Arizona Divorce Laws Alimony
- Arizona Divorce Laws and Statutes
- Arizona Divorce Laws on Adultery
- Arizona Divorce Papers
- Arizona Divorce Practice
- Arizona Divorce Process
- Arizona Divorce Records Search
- Arizona Marriage Laws
- Asset and Property Search in an Arizona Divorce
- Arizona Divorce When You Can’t Find Your Spouse
- Change to Maiden Name After Divorce in Arizona
- Changing Orders in an Arizona Divorce Decree
- Children and Divorce in Arizona
- College Expenses After Divorce in Arizona
- Complex Divorce Cases in Arizona
- Conciliation Court Services in Arizona
- Consent Required for Marriage of Minors in Arizona
- Considering the Children during a Divorce in Arizona
- Convert to a Covenant Marriage in Arizona
- Coping With Divorce in Arizona
- Court Services to Save a Marriage in Arizona
- Custody of the Family Pet in a Divorce in Arizona
- Dissolution of Marriage in Arizona
- Divorce After Legal Separation in Arizona
- Divorce and Children in Arizona
- Divorce Arizona
- Divorce Case is on the Inactive Calendar in Arizona
- Divorce Court Jurisdiction in Arizona
- Divorce in Arizona Without Children
- Divorce Procedures in Arizona
- Divorce Records in Arizona
- Divorce Statistics in Arizona
- Divorce Support Groups in Arizona
- Domestic Violence and Divorce in Arizona
- Effect of Adultery on an Arizona Divorce
- Effects of Divorce on Children in Arizona
- Enforceable Arizona Prenuptial Agreements
- Failure to Include an Issue in an Arizona Divorce
- Filing for Divorce in Arizona
- Filing for Divorce to Receive Alimony in Arizona
- Guide to Divorce for Men in Arizona
- High Asset Divorce in Arizona
- High Conflict Divorce in Arizona
- High Net Worth Divorce Arizona
- How is a Divorce Finalized in Arizona
- How Long Does a Contested Divorce Take in Arizona
- How Long Does it Take to Get a Divorce in Arizona
- How Long Does it Take to Get Divorced in Arizona
- How Long Does Uncontested Divorce Take in Arizona
- How Long To Be Separated Before Divorce in Arizona
- How long to get Temporary Orders in Arizona
- How Much Does it Cost to Get a Divorce in Arizona
- How to Appeal a Divorce Decree in Arizona
- How To Find Good Divorce Attorney in Arizona
- How to Start a Divorce in Arizona
- Learn About Uncontested Divorce in Arizona
- Legally Separated File Divorce in Arizona
- Marital Settlement Agreement in Arizona
- The merger of the Settlement Agreement in Arizona
- Military Divorce Laws in Arizona
- Misled Into Signing Divorce Settlement in Arizona
- Modifying a Divorce Decree in Arizona
- No Contest Divorce in Arizona
- No-Fault Divorce in Arizona
- Order to Pay Spouses Attorney Fees in Arizona
- Parenting Class During a Divorce in Arizona
- Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in Arizona
- Protect Children in a Divorce in Arizona
- Quick Divorce in Arizona
- Reasons for Divorce in Arizona
- Reasons to File for Divorce in Arizona
- Represent Yourself in Arizona Divorce Case
- Same-Sex Divorce in Arizona
- Sealing Court Records in an Arizona Divorce
- Sell Home During Divorce in Arizona
- Selling Property During a Divorce in Arizona
- Served With Divorce Papers in Arizona
- Serving Divorce Papers by Publication in Arizona
- Should I Keep the House in a Divorce in Arizona
- Social Media Evidence in Divorce in Arizona
- Stop an Arizona Divorce
- Stop an Arizona Divorce if You Change Your Mind
- What Happens at a Resolution Management Conference in Arizona
- What Happens If the Divorce Case Goes to Trial in Arizona
- What Happens Temporary Orders Hearing in Arizona
- What is a Covenant Marriage in Arizona
- What is a Default Divorce in Arizona
- What is a Family Law Master in an Arizona Divorce Case
- What is a Preliminary Injunction in an Arizona Divorce
- What is a Temporary Orders Hearing in Arizona
- What is the Divorce Process in Arizona
- What Reasons Do I Need to Obtain a Divorce in a Covenant Marriage in Arizona
- What to do When Served with Divorce Papers in Arizona
- When Can I File For Divorce in Arizona
As Seen on CBS News, ABC News, NBC News, and Fox News
What’s Hot – Blog
About the Author: Chris Hildebrand has over 26 years of Arizona family law experience and received awards from US News and World Report, Phoenix Magazine, Arizona Foothills Magazine and others. Visit https://www.hildebrandlaw.com.