MARJORIE HORNUNG v. ROBERT HORNUNG, SC 19361

Judicial District of Stamford

 

     Dissolution of Marriage; Prenuptial Agreements; Whether Lump Sum Alimony Award Constituted Improper Property Distribution; Whether Award of Attorney’s Fees Violated Prenuptial Agreement; Whether “Special Scrutiny” Standard Applies in Determining Enforceability of Prenuptial Agreement Amended After Marriage.  The parties entered into a prenuptial agreement that included a schedule for the distribution of the marital property in the event of divorce.  After the marriage, the defendant received over thirty million dollars from the sale of his interest in a software company.  The parties modified the agreement, increasing the property distribution to be received by the plaintiff.  The plaintiff brought this dissolution action and challenged the enforceability of the prenuptial agreement.  The court ruled that the original agreement was enforceable, finding that the defendant had made a full financial disclosure and that the fifty-fold increase in the company’s value shortly after the marriage did not render enforcement of the agreement unconscionable.  The court next concluded that, because the agreement was modified during the marriage, the enforceability of the modified agreement should be judged under the “special scrutiny” standard applicable to postnuptial agreements recognized in Bedrick v. Bedrick, 300 Conn. 691 (2011).  It ruled that, while the defendant failed to make a full disclosure of his income in the year and a half prior to execution of the modified agreement, that fact was not sufficient to invalidate the modified agreement such that it would be unconscionable to enforce it.  The court dissolved the marriage, determined that the plaintiff was entitled to $4.75 million of the marital estate pursuant to the modified agreement and ordered the defendant to pay the plaintiff $40,000 a month in unallocated alimony and child support and $7.5 million in lump sum alimony.  The defendant appeals, claiming that the lump sum alimony award constitutes a functional property award that violates the intent of the parties as expressed in their prenuptial agreement.  The defendant also challenges the award to the plaintiff of $40,000 in attorney’s fees to defend this appeal, claiming that the language of the prenuptial agreement precludes such an award.  The plaintiff cross appeals, asking that, in the event that the defendant prevails on his lump sum alimony claim or that this matter is remanded for a new hearing on all the financial issues, the Supreme Court consider her claim that the trial court erred in deeming the prenuptial agreement enforceable.  She claims that the agreement, as amended, is unconscionable and does not survive review under Bedrick’s “special scrutiny” standard.  The defendant counters that, because the Connecticut Premarital Agreement Act specifically provides for the amendment of prenuptial agreements after marriage and sets forth statutory criteria for determining their enforceability, Bedrick’s common law “special scrutiny” standard for determining the enforceability of wholly postnuptial agreements should not have been applied here.