The First Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined the phrase “consummation of the anticipated marriage” in the prenuptial agreement meant the marriage ceremony, not sexual relations. In these divorce proceedings, the wife argued the prenuptial agreement was unenforceable because the couple never had sexual relations and “consummation” of the marriage was a condition precedent to the prenuptial agreement:
While the word “consummation” connotes sexual relations in certain contexts, such as annulment proceedings, that is not the only meaning of the word, which may simply mean achieve or fulfill (see Black’s Law Dictionary [11th ed 2019]). The plain meaning of “consummation,” in the context of the section titled “Marriage — a Condition Precedent and Effective Date” and defining the effective date of agreement as the date of the parties’ marriage, is consummation or fulfillment of the parties’ intention to enter into a valid “marriage.” Reading the contract as a whole, this interpretation of the section effectuates the parties’ expressed intention to fix their respective rights accruing upon marriage and to avoid unnecessary and intrusive litigation in the event of divorce, and sets an ascertainable date for determining the effectiveness and enforceability of the prenuptial agreement.
In contrast, accepting the wife’s position would render the parties’ respective rights uncertain and require the court to conduct a highly intrusive hearing into the parties’ intimate relations, which is both contrary to the parties’ stated intention and impractical. Fort v Haar, 2022 NY Slip Op 05660, First Dept 10-11-22
Practice Point: The condition precedent to the prenuptial agreement was the “consummation” of the marriage. The wife argued the agreement was unenforceable because the couple never had sexual relations. The appellate court found that the word “consummation” referred to the marriage ceremony, not sexual relations, and the agreement was therefore enforceable.