Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Dienst v. Dienst case brief

Dienst v. Dienst case brief summary
141 N.W. 591 (1913)

Defendant husband sought review of a decree entered by a circuit court (Michigan), which sustained complainant wife's demurrer to the husband's cross-bill alleging the existence of a verbal antenuptial contract and dismissed that cross-bill.

The wife sought a divorce on the ground of extreme cruelty. The husband filed a cross-bill setting up a verbal antenuptial contract. The cross-bill alleged that the wife had agreed to execute a will in favor of the husband in case he survived her. The husband sought to have that will declared a binding property settlement. The circuit court found that the alleged contract was within the Statute of Frauds and sustained the wife's general demurrer to the cross-bill. The husband sought review of that decision.


  • Mich. 3 Comp. Laws § 9515(3) provided that every agreement made in consideration of marriage, except for the mutual promises to marry, was void unless in writing and signed by the party to be charged. 
  • The court found that the agreement referenced in the cross-bill had been made in contemplation of marriage because it allegedly stated that the husband would move to Michigan and marry the wife in exchange for her promise to provide support and to execute a will in his favor. 
  • Therefore, the Statute of Frauds rendered the agreement void and unenforceable.

The court affirmed the circuit court's decree, which sustained the wife's demurrer and dismissed the husband's cross-bill. The wife was awarded costs with regard to both courts. The matter was remanded for further proceedings.

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