Duress is a condition of mind produced by improper external pressure or influence that practically destroys the free agency of a party and causes him to do an act or form a contract not of his own volition.
Holler v. Holler
Plaintiff is originally from Ukraine. After seeing defendant's picture in "a feminine magazine," she wrote to him in English, included her number, and the two began talking. She eventually traveled to the US to marry defendant, despite not speaking English well. She became pregnant with his child, but her visa was about to expire unless she married him. She relied upon defendant to provide support as she brought no money. Defendant told plaintiff about having a premarital agreement while she was in Ukraine, but she thought it was just paperwork related to the marriage. He gave it to her shortly before the wedding, but after translating eleven pages, she gave up because translating and understanding the legal language was too hard. She could not afford counsel and so she signed the agreement a week before the wedding.
Three years later, plaintiff and defendant separated and plaintiff sought a divorce, custody of the children, child support, equitable distribution of marital property, and alimony.
Family court determined that plaintiff's premarital agreement was not enforceable because it was signed under duress.
Was the premarital agreement valid or was it made under duress?
The consideration for a premarital agreement is the marriage itself. It is valid and will be upheld only when it is entered into freely, fairly, and in good faith by parties legally competent to contract.
- Page 489, Bottom-ish
Defendant tried to understand the agreement but had no way to. If she did not accept, she would not have gotten married and would have been deported back to Ukraine.
The premarital agreement was not valid because it was made under duress. Affirmed.