According to FOX news, former NFL superstar Deion Sanders has filed for divorce. His wife, Pilar Sanders, filed a response this week in which she alleges Deion was unfaithful. “She accuses him unkind, uncaring, insensitive, cruel and unusual treatment, as well as physical, mental and emotional abuse of her and their three children.” The response urges the court to punish Deion for “immoral, corrupt, lewd, perverted, unnatural, sinful conduct.” Ironically, the response is similar to that filed by Deion’s first wife Carolyn. Carolyn also accused Deion of adultery and “cruel treatment.”
Pilar is requesting that the judge throw out the couple’s prenuptial agreement and instead grant her most of the marital estate. As grounds for this request, Pilar alleges she was under duress when she signed the agreement. Prenuptial agreements, otherwise known as premarital agreements, must be carefully drafted in order to be enforceable in a California family courts.
California Family Code section 1615(a) states that a premarital agreement is unenforceable if not entered into voluntarily. A premarital agreement is presumed involuntary if the party had less than seven calendar days between the day the party was presented with the contract and advised to seek independent legal counsel and the time the party signed the contract. However, it is important to note that this rule does not apply to a party represented by legal counsel throughout the premarital agreement process. Therefore, if a judge concludes that Pilar was in fact under duress when she signed the premarital agreement, the judge is likely to find the agreement unenforceable.
A fundamental element of any contract formation is freely given consent of the parties. This consent is defeated if one of the parties enters into the contract under duress. Duress often appears in California law as a defense to any type of contract actions. It is crucial when drafting and executing premarital agreements to ensure no party signs the contract under duress.
If the judge determines the premarital agreement is unenforceable, he will proceed to divide the community assets. Pilar is requesting that the judge grant her most of Deion’s money to punish him for his alleged cruel behavior. Under California Family Code section 2335, evidence of specific acts of misconduct is improper and inadmissible in a dissolution (divorce) proceeding. This statute stems from public policy concerns underlying no-fault divorce. California is a no-fault state, meaning that a party’s conduct during the marriage is not a relevant consideration in a divorce action.
Although judges officially cannot consider the fault of each party in a dissolution case, according to celebrity divorce attorney Brad LaMorgese, Pilar’s response might still impact the proceedings. “Those are unusual allegations in and of themselves. They shouldn’t matter to the contract, but would that affect a judges’ opinion if they’re true? I think so,” he said.
Please contact us if you have questions regarding the complexities of premarital agreements or are considering divorce. San Diego Family Law Attorney Nancy J. Bickford is the only certified family law specialist in San Diego who is a CPA and also holds an MBA. Don’t settle for less when determining your rights during a divorce. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.