THOMAS A. SANSEVERINO v. STACEY SANSEVERINO, SC 19000
Judicial District of Stamford-Norwalk
Dissolution of Marriage; Premarital Agreement; Attorney’s Fees; Whether Trial Court Improperly Refused to Enforce Premarital Agreement Provision Prohibiting Award of Attorney’s Fees Because the Agreement’s Validity Had Not Yet Been Adjudicated. In this dissolution of marriage action, the defendant wife filed a motion seeking pendente lite attorney’s fees and certain other litigation expenses, alleging that she lacked sufficient funds to adequately prepare for trial. The plaintiff husband objected, claiming that, under the parties' premarital agreement, each party is responsible for their own attorney’s fees and litigation expenses. He contended that the premarital agreement should be given immediate effect because, pursuant to General Statutes § 46b-36e, it was effective upon marriage. Noting that the validity of the premarital agreement was being challenged by the defendant, the court ruled that, until the agreement’s validity was confirmed by the court, the agreement could not be used to bar the defendant’s claim for attorney’s fees and litigation expenses. Thereafter, citing statutory provisions that allow for an award of reasonable attorney’s fees and other litigation expenses in a dissolution action, the court granted the defendant’s motion. The court awarded the defendant approximately $42,000 in attorney’s fees and also ordered the plaintiff to pay the retainer fee of a special discovery master. On appeal, the plaintiff claims that, because the Connecticut Premarital Agreement Act, General Statutes § 46b-36a et seq., places the burden of establishing the unenforceability of a premarital agreement on the party challenging its validity, the parties’ premarital agreement should be given full force and effect until the defendant’s challenge to the agreement’s validity is adjudicated.