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Brantley v. Brantley

Court of Appeals of Georgia, Fourth Division

May 8, 2018

BRANTLEY
v.
BRANTLEY.

          DILLARD, C. J., DOYLE, P. J., and MERCIER, J.

          Dillard, Chief Judge.

         James Robert Brantley, Sr. filed a complaint for divorce from Cyd Oglesby Brantley, and shortly thereafter also filed a motion to enforce an antenuptial agreement, under which the parties waived any right to alimony. Cyd filed responsive pleadings, and, subsequently, the trial court denied Robert's motion. On appeal, Robert contends that the trial court erred in applying an incorrect legal theory that resulted in it ruling that the antenuptial agreement was unenforceable. For the reasons set forth infra, we agree. Accordingly, we vacate the trial court's ruling and remand the case for reconsideration consistent with this opinion.

          Enforcement of an antenuptial agreement is "a matter of public policy."[1] In determining whether to enforce an antenuptial agreement, the trial court has discretion to "approve the agreement in whole or in part, or refuse to approve it as a whole."[2] Consequently, we evaluate a trial court's ruling regarding the enforceability of an antenuptial agreement under "the familiar abuse of discretion standard of review."[3] And under this standard, we review "the trial court's legal holdings de novo, and we uphold the trial court's factual findings as long as they are not clearly erroneous, which means there is some evidence in the record to support them."[4]

         So viewed, the record shows that Robert and Cyd began dating in 1999. They were engaged to be married in 2002, and on December 14, 2002, they jointly purchased a home, which required them to provide their respective financial information for the mortgage loan application. On December 27, 2002, three days before their wedding date, Robert and Cyd executed an antenuptial agreement, which, inter alia, provided that, in the event of divorce, both parties waived any claims for alimony. In addition, the agreement referenced attached financial disclosures from both Robert and Cyd and further provided:

The parties agree and stipulate that each of them has made a full and fair disclosure to the other of his or her current financial worth and income. Further, both parties agree and stipulate that they have reviewed Exhibits "A" and "B" hereto, and, therefore, both parties are fully acquainted with and are aware of the financial circumstances of the other party.

         Then, on December 30, 2002, Robert and Cyd were married.

         Nearly fourteen years later, on March 14, 2017, Robert filed a complaint for divorce in the Superior Court of Meriwether County, asserting that the marriage was irretrievably broken. And several weeks later, following the filing of Cyd's answer and counterclaim, Robert filed a motion to enforce the antenuptial agreement. Cyd filed an initial response brief, and both parties then exchanged reply briefs on the issue. Ultimately, the trial court denied Robert's motion, ruling that the antenuptial agreement was unenforceable because he failed to provide full disclosure of his income.

         Shortly thereafter, Robert obtained a certificate of immediate review and filed an application for interlocutory review, which this Court granted. This appeal follows.

         1. Robert contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion to enforce the antenuptial agreement. Specifically, Robert argues that the court applied an erroneous legal theory in ruling that the antenuptial agreement was unenforceable because he did not disclose his income within the four corners of the agreement. We agree.

         In Scherer v. Scherer, [5] the Supreme Court of Georgia established a three-part test for determining whether an antenuptial agreement is enforceable:[6]

(1) the antenuptial agreement was not the result of fraud, duress, mistake, misrepresentation, or nondisclosure of material facts; (2) the agreement is not unconscionable; and (3) taking into account all relevant facts and circumstances, including changes beyond the parties' contemplation when the agreement was executed, enforcement of the antenuptial agreement would be neither unfair nor unreasonable.[7]

         The first prong of the Scherer test, and the only prong at issue here, [8] requires the party seeking enforcement to "show both that there was a full and fair disclosure of the assets of the parties prior to the execution of the antenuptial agreement, and that the party opposing enforcement entered into the agreement freely, voluntarily, and with full understanding of its terms after being offered the opportunity to consult with independent counsel."[9] And Georgia law, like that of virtually every other state, imposes "an affirmative duty of pre-execution disclosure on parties to an antenuptial agreement."[10] Indeed, mutual disclosure of the material facts is "a precondition for entering into an antenuptial agreement that accords with Georgia public policy."[11]

         Here, as previously noted, the antenuptial agreement referenced attached financial disclosures from both the husband and wife, which provided information regarding both parties' current financial worth and income. Additionally, in support of his motion to enforce the antenuptial agreement, Robert claims that he disclosed his income on three separate forms that were part of the loan application he and Cyd completed prior to jointly purchasing their home. Robert further contends that he verbally disclosed his income to Cyd prior to their execution of the antenuptial agreement and that she was aware of his financial status given ...


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