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Minnesota Supreme Court affirms ruling on antenuptial agreement

MINNEAPOLIS -- An antenuptial agreement has no bearing between a separated Fulda man and an Estherville, Iowa woman, three courts have decided. Days before Robbie Kremer, now 47, and then-fiance Michelle, now 47, were to leave for their 2001 dest...

 

MINNEAPOLIS - An antenuptial agreement has no bearing between a separated Fulda man and an Estherville, Iowa woman, three courts have decided.

Days before Robbie Kremer, now 47, and then-fiance Michelle, now 47, were to leave for their 2001 destination wedding, Robbie presented Michelle with an antenuptial agreement and made clear the wedding was off if she did not sign it. Michelle signed, the couple wed and when the marriage soured, Robbie held to the claim the antenuptial agreement was valid.

The case was recently addressed by the Minnesota Supreme Court, whose recently published opinion details an eight-year court battle. Previously, Robbie’s claims were invalidated by the Nobles County District Court, Minnesota Court of Appeals and now the Minnesota Supreme Court after Robbie appealed.

The agreement - which contained provisions for both marital and nonmarital property upon dissolution or death - was procedurally unfair, not supported by adequate consideration and was procured under duress, Minnesota Supreme Court’s opinion, published Wednesday, states.

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Long legal battle Wednesday’s released opinion is the latest in a lengthy court battle that dates back to 2010, when the couple decided to separate.

At that time, Michelle argued that the agreement - which allowed each party to retain their property in the event of dissolution or death - was unfair. According to the Supreme Court’s published opinion, the topic of an an antenuptial agreement surfaced as the couple dated, when Robbie told Michelle he would require an agreement be signed if they were to marry. No agreement was made, and neither discussed or negotiated terms.

The opinion also details that Robbie contacted an attorney, supplied the attorney with copies of Michelle’s tax returns and signed an antenuptial agreement without Michelle’s knowledge. He presented the agreement to Michelle in late February, three days before the couple would leave for their wedding.

“Robbie made clear that if Michelle did not sign the agreement, the wedding was off,” the facts of the case in the published opinion read.

Since becoming married, Michelle contributed to the farming operation near Fulda and did not earn much income. The operation’s value, the facts of the opinion cite, increased significantly during that time.

The Nobles County District Court concluded that Michelle did not have an “adequate opportunity to meet with legal counsel of her own choice.” The district court found that Robbie intentionally “used the wedding deadline to create an atmosphere of pressure,” and pressured/coerced Michelle into signing the agreement, the ruling states.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed, although on different grounds. Antenuptial agreements, the court determined, must be evaluated under the common law in relation to the distribution of marital property.

The Minnesota Supreme Court affirmed, with five justices in affirmation, one dissenting and one abstained from the matter.

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The entire 28-page document may be reviewed on the Minnesota Supreme Court’s website.

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