Sunday, December 8, 2013

In re Marriage of Shanks case brief

In re Marriage of Shanks case brief summary
758 N.W.2d 506 (2008)

Appellant husband challenged a judgment of the Court of Appeals (Iowa) affirming a decision of the District Court for Pottawattamie County that denied a request for specific performance of a premarital agreement in a dissolution of marriage proceeding against appellee wife. The wife cross-appealed, seeking a more favorable property division, spousal support, and an additional award for attorney fees.

This was a second marriage for both parties. While contemplating marriage, they discussed the goal of preserving the husband's assets for his children. The wife agreed to enter a premarital agreement, stating that she was not marring the husband for his money. The premarital agreement was presented to the wife ten days before their wedding, and she consulted an attorney for the first draft upon the husband's advice.


  • The court concluded on a de novo review that the agreement was voluntarily executed, conscionable, and enforceable, which were required by the Iowa Uniform Premarital Agreement Act (IUPAA),Iowa Code § 596.12. 
  • The wife failed to establish duress or undue influence to prove that the agreement was involuntarily executed. 
  • The husband's position as a lawyer did not put him in a vastly superior bargaining position because he insisted that the wife seek the advice of independent counsel. 
  • The agreement was also not substantively or procedurally unconscionable because all of the provisions were mutual in scope, the wife assented and voluntarily declined to seek Iowa legal counsel on the second draft. 
  • Financial disclosures were fair and reasonable under Iowa Code § 596.8(3).

The court vacated the judgment of the court of appeals and reversed the district court's judgment in part. The case was remanded with instructions.

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