Lester v. Lester
87 N.Y.S.2d 517 (1949)

Facts:

  • H says that marriage (that lasted 10 yrs) was the result of threats and coercion.
  • Uses documents that they both signed to prove his allegations, which basically said the marriage wasn’t real. In pertinent part:
    • “N. C. L. hereby states, and C. L. hereby admits, that the pretended and spurious marriage contract and ceremonies, and simulated marriage relationship, is taking place against N. C. L.’s wishes, and only because of serious and dire threats of all types made against him and against herself by C. L.”

Issue:
Has the marriage contract entered into between the parties been the result of coercion, threat, force, fraud or other taint?

Holding:
No.

Reasoning:

  • “A marriage procured in consequence of coercion or fraud will be regarded ab initio as if the marriage had not been entered into at all.”
  • However, antenupitual agreements which purport to invalidate the marriage are unenforceable.
  • The two were legally married. “Private individuals may not by agreement set aside the law of the land. They may not declare that which is valid in law null and void.” Thus, they need to get a legal divorce.
  • The court also questioned the claim of coercion based on the fact that they were together for 10 years and intimate during that period.
  • Ironically, H was a professor of family relations!
  • Prof: Divorce can be regulated just as much as marriage.

Rule: Antenupitual agreements which purport to invalidate the marriage are unenforceable.