Scottie Pippen: Setting aside a prenuptial agreement

Larsa Pippen, wife of former Chicago Bulls all-star Scottie Pippen, recently filed for divorce following the couple's 19 year marriage. They have four children together. As reported by TMZ earlier in November, the couple are in the midst of aheated battle over a reported $50 million of assets. The couple signed a prenuptial agreement before their wedding in 1997, which reportedly benefits Scottie. However, Larsa is now claiming that the couple agreed to nullify the contract over a year ago. It's very possible that this couple is headed for a heated conflict regarding whether or not the terms of their prenuptial agreement should apply.

In Ontario, Section 56(4) of the Family Law Act permits the Court to set aside all or part of prenuptial agreement for the following reasons:

  1. Non-disclosure of significant assets, debts or liabilities at the time of contracting;
  2. Failure of a party to understand its nature and consequences;
  3. As otherwise permitted under the law of contracts.

The third heading as noted above imports the doctrine of unconscionability into the legislation, which applies to the circumstances under which the contract was entered into. An example of when this could apply is if someone was forced or coerced in some way to sign the agreement.

Further to the above, any agreements that parties may make in a prenuptial agreement with respect to child support are subject to the best interests of the child test, and the Court has jurisdiction to set them aside.

When the Court is considering whether or not to exercise its discretion to set aside a prenuptial agreement, the burden of proof is on the party making the claim. In the case of Scottie and Larsa, Larsa would have to prove to the Court that their situation falls within one of the grounds listed above which would permit the contract to be set aside. Even if a claimant can establish that their situation falls within one of these situations, the Court must determine if it should exercise its discretion accordingly.

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