Fourth District Court of Appeals Certifies Question Regarding Prenuptial Agreement to Florida Supreme Court

law booksIn an appeal from a final judgment in a divorce proceeding, the Fourth District Court of Appeal examined issues regarding the validity of a prenuptial agreement and the interpretation of the agreement, as well as support issues. At its conclusion in Hahamovitch v. Hahamovitch, the appeals court acknowledged a conflict with other districts and certified a question to the Supreme Court of Florida.

At the outset, the appeals court noted that a prenuptial agreement may be challenged in only two ways. First, a party must claim that he or she entered into a prenuptial agreement as a result of fraud, duress, deceit, coercion, or the like. Otherwise, a party must first establish that a prenuptial agreement is unfair or unreasonable to one spouse under the particular circumstances of the case. Then there must be a determination as to whether there was a full disclosure regarding marital property, income, or similar factors before the agreement was signed.

Without delving into the details of the parties’ prenuptial agreement, the appeals court held that the wife had failed to establish fraud or misrepresentation regarding the contract. Likewise, the appellate court did not find that the prenuptial agreement was unfair at the time it was entered into. As such, the appeals court affirmed the trial court’s judgment that the prenuptial agreement at issue was valid.

The appeals court then analyzed the trial court’s interpretation of the parties’ agreement with regard to assets held by the husband at the time of divorce. The agreement expressly provided that the wife would waive her rights to any assets held in her husband’s name, regardless of whether those assets were acquired or enhanced during the course of the marriage with marital earnings or labor.

The appeals court noted that the case law on this issue was not consistent among Florida District Courts of Appeal. Under the facts of this case, the Fourth District held that the plain language of the prenuptial agreement resulted in the wife’s release of any claims to assets held by her husband. The broad language of the contract waived the wife’s rights to any assets acquired either before or during the marriage, and regardless of the fact that the asset might have appreciated due to marital efforts. However, the court acknowledged that both the Second and Third Districts had held similar provisions insufficient to waive a spouse’s right to assets. Accordingly, the Fourth District recognized a conflict in that regard.

Finally, the appeals court held that the trial court had erred in determining that the wife waived her right to petition for modification of support payments. The court noted that the agreement itself did not make any provision for the modification of alimony payments. Nor did the contract contain a waiver of alimony modification. The court therefore reversed the trial court’s ruling that the prenuptial agreement prohibited the wife from petitioning for the alimony modification.

Recognizing the conflict between districts as to the interpretation of prenuptial provisions, the court certified a question to the Florida Supreme Court regarding the entitlement of a spouse to assets earned or acquired by marital efforts, even when a prenuptial agreement expressly waives that interest.

If you or someone you love is going through a divorce, property division, or support dispute, contact the Southwest Florida family law attorneys at Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano. Our lawyers aggressively represent our clients in order to protect their rights under the law. To discuss your case with one of our legal professionals, contact us online or call toll-free at (800) 283-7442.

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