Sandy T. Fox, Esquire, a divorce lawyer in Broward and Miami-Dade, represented the Former Wife in an enforcement proceeding in the Florida marital and family law court located north of Fort Lauderdale. The equitable distribution provision of the marital settlement agreement provided that the Former Wife was to receive $141,263.72 from the Former Husband. The Former Husband retained his real property in New York. While no date of payment to the Former Wife was specified in the marital settlement agreement, the final judgment of dissolution of marriage ordered the parties to comply with the marital settlement agreement.
The Former Wife filed a motion to enforce the equitable distribution provision of the final judgment since the Former Husband had only made 5 incremental payments. At the hearing, she testified that she was to receive $141,263.72 upon entry of the final judgment. On the otherhand, the Former Husband testified that the Former Wife was to be paid upon the sale of his New York property.
On appeal in the case of Crespo v. Crespo, the Former Wife argued that the trial court erred in admitting parol evidence as to the intent of the parties. In affirming the decision of the divorce court located north of Ft. Lauderdale, the Fourth District Court of Appeal found that the marital settlement agreement contained a latent ambiguity since it failed to specify the time in which the Former Wife was to receive payment from the Former Husband. The court explained that a latent ambiguity arises when the language in a contract is clear and intelligible and suggests a single meaning, but some extrinsic fact or extraneous evidence creates a necessity for interpretation or a choice among two or more possible meanings.
In affirming the decision of the Florida marital and family law court, the Fourth District Court of Appeal held that when a marital settlement agreement is ambiguous or unclear as to a particular right or duty, the court may receive extrinsic parol evidence for the purpose of determining the intent of the parties at the time of the contract. The court reasoned that when a contract fails to specify the rights or duties of the parties, extrinsic evidence becomes necessary and the trial court can consider parol evidence.