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Lawmaker's bill underscores novel take on prenuptial agreements

Judges in Georgia and throughout the country have discretionary power to alter provisions of or rescind agreements that they believe are egregiously one-sided, fraudulent or against public policy. That ability to step in and have the final legal say over what is deemed illegal, immoral or unfair behavior on the part of one contractual party has always been a judicial prerogative.

A Wisconsin legislator's take on that discretion in connection with prenuptial agreements has other lawmakers in that state scratching their heads, and has generated national media interest and discussion.

What Wisconsin Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, proposes in a bill he recently wrote is this: Take away that discretion to act entirely and prevent a judge from taking any action at all regarding a prenup, regardless of how unfair it is or even whether one of the parties coerced the other or committed fraud in executing it.

"The bottom line is right now, there's too much stretching by judges," Kleefisch said recently at a public hearing. He says enactment of his bill will prevent persons from "marrying for money or for other notorious purposes rather than love," and then seeking adjustment of a prenup to ultimately get what they want.

Those statements have perplexed other legislators, one of whom noted that, "It's pretty simple contract law that you set aside an agreement that was entered into falsely." He added that passage of Kleefisch's bill would undo that protection.

Rep. Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie, was more blunt.

"Remember that statement about lipstick on a pig,?" he queried. "Sometimes there's just nothing you can do to a bill to make it viable.

Source: The Cap Times, "Crime and courts: Bill to make prenups ironclad shocks Democrats" Oct. 17, 2011

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