One of the biggest steps in any divorce process, for a couple without children, is the division of property. A marital settlement agreement puts all of the terms of a couple’s property division decisions into writing. Once a couple completes a marital settlement agreement and the court approves it, there are only a few situations where it can be set aside. One Broward County husband’s situation did not fit into any of the categories recognized by the law, so the 4th District Court of Appeal upheld a trial court’s decision rejecting the husband’s request to start over.
The couple, Gilbert Hall and Susan Hall, met for mediation in 2012. The mediator used a “shuttle style” of mediation, meaning that the husband and his attorney sat in one room, the wife and her attorney sat in another, and the mediator “shuttled” back and forth between the two rooms. The mediation eventually produced a resolution on all issues, which was put into writing in a marital settlement agreement.
The wife eventually filed the two-page agreement with the court. The husband protested, contending that the agreement the wife submitted was missing an essential third page that contained some of the terms to which the spouses had agreed at mediation. The trial court was not persuaded and rejected the husband’s motion.
The husband’s appeal regarding the validity of the agreement also failed. The court pointed out that Florida law recognizes two bases for setting aside a valid, otherwise enforceable marital settlement agreement. One is when the agreement is reached as a result of “fraud, deceit, duress, coercion, misrepresentation, or overreaching.” The other is when the agreement is facially unreasonable, and the spouse on the “short end” of the unreasonable agreement had too little knowledge of the couple’s marital property and income to make a knowledgeable decision at the time the agreement was reached. An unreasonable agreement is one that “does not adequately provide for the challenging spouse.”
Hall’s case clearly was not one of fraud, deceit, duress, coercion, misrepresentation, or overreaching. The husband did not claim that the wife fleeced him or forced him into the agreement, just that his lawyer failed to present a third page of the agreement to the wife. The agreement did not fit the second situation, either, since the husband provided the courts with no proof that the version of the agreement that existed in the two-page document would fail to provide adequately for his needs. Without this proof, the husband could not establish that the agreement was unreasonable.
For spouses considering divorce, there are several steps that are highly important and require a keen knowledge of both the facts of your situation and of the law. Experienced counsel can be invaluable as you go through the steps of mediation and reach a completed marital settlement agreement. For advice and representation in your divorce, consult the South Florida divorce attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. Our diligent, experienced attorneys have spent many years helping people like you during each step of the divorce process.
Contact us online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.
More blog posts:
Florida Wife Commingled Cash Gifts from Mom, Converting Them into Marital Assets, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, July 22, 2015
Dealing with Items One Spouse Sells During a Florida Divorce, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, May 13, 2015