Today, with a global, mobile population that does not speak any one single language, translations are more important than ever before. This includes translations of overseas marriage contracts and overseas prenuptial agreements from other languages into English and vice versa. This has increasingly become an important part of family law and estate law litigation in recent years.

There was a single example of a divorce case recently heard in New Hampshire’s Supreme Court. It examined a prenuptial agreement’s validity which a lower court would not enforce. This was in relation to Mariana Nizhnikov and Alexander Nizhnikov. These two people started in 2003 a romantic relationship which led to their engagement in 2005. The woman at the time was living in Russia while Alexander lived in the United States of America. Following their engagement, they visited one another on different occasions in the two countries but made the decision to get married in Russia.

A Legal Translation of the Prenuptial Agreement into Russian

Before the marriage of the couple, Alexander told Mariana that they had to secure a prenuptial agreement due to the fact he had 3 children that would need to be protected if they ever got divorced. Alexander drafted an agreement assisted by an attorney and sent the agreement to Mariana who got a translation of the prenuptial agreement from English to Russian as this was her first language. A wedding date had not been organised when the translation took place.

Signing of the Prenuptial Agreement

Mariana came to the United States in 2006 in January and was married on 3rd February, 2006 in Mont Vernon in the state of New Hampshire. The couple on their marriage day signed the prenuptial agreement. The prenuptial agreement had references to specific financial documents which were supposed to be attached to the prenuptial agreement, but this was not the case.

The parties later divorced. At the divorce proceedings, the trial court decided that the prenuptial agreement was not valid because of a “collapsed time frame” that preceded the marriage and also due to the fact the prenuptial agreement made references to specific financial statements which had not taken place. Due to these facts, the trial court came to the decision that the prenuptial agreement was as a result of duress.

The English to Russian translation of the Prenuptial Agreement emphasises the absence of duress. The New Hampshire Supreme Court would not accept the finding by the trial court of duress. The court stated that Alexander and Mariana had in 2005 discussed the prenuptial agreement before she travelled to the U.S. in 2006 and considered also that before their marriage she had the agreement translated from English to Russian.

The New Hampshire Supreme Court stuck to the fact that the couple had no precise wedding date on the date the agreement was exchanged and did not make it invalid only because the couple on their wedding day signed the agreement.

New Hampshire Supreme Court upheld the validity of the prenuptial agreement which was signed by a Russian Lawyer and the bride. It also held that the couple’s failure to affix the financial disclosures to the prenuptial agreement did not mean it was involuntary due to the fact that the wife had plenty of time to look into her then husband’s financial status and/or get legal counsel before getting married, which she  did not do.

The court found that the woman was both sophisticated and well educated and she possessed a high-level position in Alexander’s company in charge of 200 employees. Additionally, the court mentioned that due to the wife’s position in her husband’s company, she was aware of the finances of the company and had direct access to financial records and had at times prepared the business’s budgets. In the end, the court took into consideration the fact that the prenuptial agreement had a waiver which states the wife had plenty of time to carry out an investigation the her husband’s assets but did not take this up.

Due to all known factors, the New Hampshire Supreme Court found the prenuptial agreement had been obtained voluntarily and not due to duress. As a result, the trial court’s decision in relation to the property distribution was rejected and the couple’s property was distributed according to the prenuptial agreement. The court however did reject the request of the husband’s to reverse other decisions made by the circuit court in relation to residency requirements, a restraining order, and a parenting plan.

In the end it was the accurate legal translation of the prenuptial agreement that resulted in the New Hampshire Supreme Court’s decision.