In what lawyers are calling a landmark ruling, a New York appeals court has upheld a Long Island judge’s decision to void an prenuptial agreement that the wife of a millionaire says she was tricked into signing by false promises made by her husband-to-be, days before the wedding.
Elizabeth Cioffi-Petrakis says she was presented with the document and an ultimatum four days before her scheduled 1998 wedding to Peter Petrakis, according to the New York Post and Yahoo’s Shine blog.
Young and naive, she believed Petrakis when he told her orally that his lawyers had made him get a prenuptial agreement signed to protect his business and promised to destroy the document once they had children and put her name on the deed to the house, Cioffi-Petrakis now says. She also says Petrakis gave her an ultimatum four days before the wedding for which her father had already paid $40,000, telling her to sign the document or it wouldn’t occur.
The appellate decision to strike what it called a “fraudulently induced” contract “is unprecedented in the family law world,” Vikki Ziegler, a matrimonial lawyer apparently not involved in the case, told Yahoo. “This is a landmark decision that will likely be litigated a great deal in the future in similar cases for those who feel their prenups are unconscionable.”
Renowned matrimonial lawyer Raoul Felder, also not involved in the case, agreed, called the ruling “really rare,” the Post says.
Dennis D’Antonio represented Cioffi-Petrakis in the case.
The articles don’t include any comment from Peter Petrakis, 41, or his counsel.
Now that the status of their prenuptial agreement is clear, the couple’s divorce will proceed.