Osborne v. Osborne
384 Mass. 591, 428 N.E.2d 810 (1981)

  • David was lucky enough to marry an heiress named Barbara. David had no assets, but did just graduate med school. On the day of their marriage they signed an ante-nuptial agreement (aka a prenup).
    • The ante-nuptial agreement stated that each party disclaimed all marital property rights.
      • The ante-nuptial agreement also included a full disclosure of each party’s assets.
  • Unfortunately, they got a divorce. David went to court to get the ante-nuptial agreement declared invalid. He asked for spousal support and a division of marital property.
    • David argued that ante-nuptial agreement should be considered void ab initio as being against public policy because:
      • They are not compatible with and denigrate the status of marriage.
      • They facilitate divorce by providing inducements to end marriage.
      • A contract waiving alimony may force a spouse to become dependent on the State (aka welfare).
  • The Trial Court found for David and awarded him a share of the marital property. Barbara appealed.
  • The Massachusetts Supreme Court reversed.
    • The Massachusetts Supreme Court found that the Massachusetts Legislature had recently enacted no-fault divorce, and so the public perceptions of divorce were changing.
    • The Court found that an ante-nuptial agreement doesn’t encourage divorce in the same way a will doesn’t encourage death.
    • The Court found that in the alternative, they’d be encouraging incompatible couple to stay together for “a lifetime of misery” and that wasn’t good public policy.
    • The Court found that there were some limitations on ante-nuptial agreement. Mainly that there must be full disclosure of assets, and that the courts had the right to modify them in order to preserve equity.