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CATHERINE E. WALSH SIMEONE v. FREDERICK A. SIMEONE (10/26/88)

filed: October 26, 1988.

CATHERINE E. WALSH SIMEONE, APPELLANT,
v.
FREDERICK A. SIMEONE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County, Family Division, at No. April Term 1984 No. 1847.

COUNSEL

Leonard Dubin, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Robert I. Whitelaw, Philadelphia, for appellee.

Cavanaugh, Brosky and Montemuro, JJ. Montemuro, J., concurs in the result.

Author: Brosky

[ 380 Pa. Super. Page 39]

This is an appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County denying appellant's Exceptions to the Recommendation by the Master that the 1975 antenuptial agreement is valid and enforceable, and is a bar to appellant's receipt of alimony pendente lite.

Appellant presents the following issues for our review: (1) whether the antenuptial agreement is rendered void

[ 380 Pa. Super. Page 40]

    when appellant lacked an awareness of the statutory rights she relinquished upon its execution; (2) whether the antenuptial agreement is void when appellant lacked independent counsel and alleges that the agreement was signed under duress; (3) whether there was an adequate financial disclosure to ensure the validity of the antenuptial agreement; and (4) whether the antenuptial agreement was superceded by the parties' handwritten separation agreement dated February 1, 1982.

The trial court answered these questions in the negative. We now affirm the trial court's decision.

Catherine E. Walsh Simeone ("Appellant") and Dr. Frederick A. Simeone ("Appellee") were married on October 4, 1975. The day before they were to marry, appellant signed an antenuptial agreement prepared by appellee's attorney, limiting appellant's alimony in the event of divorce to $25,000.00, payable in the amount of $200.00 per week. The parties separated in February of 1982. Subsequent to their separation, the parties executed a handwritten separation agreement, providing temporary support for appellant and the parties' only child, Christina, now age eleven. In July of 1984, appellee reduced his payments to appellant to cover child support expenses only, and appellant filed a Complaint for support.

A Master's hearing was held, and the Master found that the separation agreement did not supercede the provisions of the antenuptial agreement with respect to appellant's right to alimony pendente lite. The Master fixed appellee's child support obligations at $1,627.00 per month. The Master's Report was filed on April 1, 1985, and later became an Order of the Court. No Exceptions were filed to the Master's Report. On April 3, 1985, appellant filed a Petition seeking alimony pendente lite. A Master was appointed, and a Master's hearing was held to determine the issues of the validity of the antenuptial agreement and appellant's right to alimony pendente lite based upon her potential income and expenses. The Master found that the parties' antenuptial agreement was valid and binding, and that

[ 380 Pa. Super. Page 41]

    appellant was not entitled to alimony pendente lite. Appellant filed Exceptions, which were dismissed by the trial court. Appellant has appealed.

Appellant contends, first, that the antenuptial agreement is void because she was not aware of the statutory rights which she relinquished when she executed it. She claims that the attorney who drafted the agreement represented only appellee, and never discussed or explained the contents of the agreement with her before she signed it.

In In Re Estate of Geyer, 516 Pa. 492, 533 A.2d 423 (1987) the Pennsylvania Supreme Court dealt with the issue of the enforceability of an antenuptial agreement. There, the court began by reiterating the already-established law in this area. In doing so, the court quoted extensively from In re Hillegass Estate, 431 Pa. 144, 244 A.2d 672 (1968), which was the leading decision in this Commonwealth concerning the interpretation of antenuptial agreements.

The pertinent language quoted by the Geyer court is as follows:

Parties to an antenuptial Agreement providing for the disposition of their respective estates do not deal at arm's length, but stand in a relation of mutual confidence and trust that calls for the highest degree of good faith and a reasonable provision for the surviving spouse, or in the absence of such a provision a full and fair disclosure of all pertinent facts and circumstances.

Id., 431 Pa. at 149, 244 A.2d at 675.

After announcing these standards the Court set forth the following principles.

(1) An Antenuptial Agreement is presumptively valid and binding upon the parties thereto.

[ 380 Pa. Super. Page 42]

(2) The person seeking to nullify or avoid or circumvent the Agreement has the burden of proving the invalidity of the Agreement by clear and convincing evidence that the deceased spouse at the time of the Agreement made neither (a) a reasonable provision for the intended Page 42} spouse, nor (b) a full and fair disclosure of his (or her) worth. (emphasis in original).

Geyer, supra, 516 Pa. at 501, 533 A.2d at 427. The court then went on to explain the burden of proof as follows:

The burden in the case was on Mrs. Geyer to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that the agreement did not make reasonable provision for her, and that it was entered into ...


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