J.R. v. E.M. (Manhattan Supreme Court)

Parties had executed a prenuptial Matrimonial Property Agreement before the Spanish Counsul at the Spanish Consulate located in New York City which elected the “property separation” regime of Spanish law to govern their marriage.  As such, the husband argues that all individually titled property remained separate and all jointly titled property would be distributed 50/50.  Although the parties do not dispute the intent and premises in which the agreement was entered into and Spanish law was “painstakingly followed” in preparing the prenup, the wife contends that New York law governs the agreement.  The court held that where there is dispute about choice of law, modern courts have adopted a “center of gravity” theory in which the law of the state with “the most significant relationship to the transaction and the parties” governs. Therefore, in this instance, New York law applies in determining the validity of the prenuptial agreement.

The court, thereafter, held the prenup as invalid pursuant to DRL §236(B) which requires that matrimonial agreements be “acknowledged or proven in the manner required to entitle a deed to be recorded.”  Because the Spanish Consul who oversaw the execution of the prenup in question is not a person authorized to take acknowledgements in New York State under Real Property Law §298, the prenup fails to meet an essential element necessary for it to bind the parties.