For many couples, an uncontested divorce, or at least reaching mutual agreement on some of your issues, can be a very helpful and important part of the divorce process. The more matters upon which you agree, the fewer things you will have to litigate in front of the judge. This can save time and money and possibly reduce acrimony. When you resolve an issue or issues by agreement, though, it is very important to be careful you understand how that agreement is structured. Even just minute inclusions or exclusions in your agreement can massively alter the impact on you in the long run. This is one of many reasons why you should consult an experienced South Florida family law attorney before signing off on any agreement.
For an example of what we mean, look at the divorce case of D.I., a husband from the Tampa Bay area. D.I. and his wife reached an agreement on the issue of alimony. The terms of that agreement were eventually included in the couple’s stipulated divorce decree. The decree stated that the husband owed the wife $800 per month in alimony and that the alimony obligation was to continue for the remainder of the wife’s life.
There was no “or until the wife remarries” wording or “until the wife remarries or enters a supportive relationship” language. The decree contained no wording at all that allowed for termination of the husband’s alimony obligation other than at her death.
Fast forward a few years and the husband was back in court asking a judge to terminate his alimony obligation. The husband’s argument was that circumstances had transpired that met the criteria of Section 61.08(8) of the Florida Statutes. Section 61.08(8) is a statutory provision that spells out terms in which alimony can be terminated.
Even if the statute is on your side, your stipulated agreement may trump it
The courts, however, ruled for the wife on this issue. As the appeals court explained in its written opinion, the husband’s voluntary agreement to the alimony terms in the stipulated divorce decree had the legal effect of barring him from asking for termination of his alimony obligation based upon Section 61.08(8). Florida law is clear that if you agree to an alimony provision that says that you owe alimony and that your obligation continues for the rest of your spouse’s life, even if she remarries, then that agreement overrides Section 61.08(8). Specifically, the appeals court stated that if “a marital settlement agreement provides for the continuing payment of alimony despite the remarriage of the recipient,” and so long as those terms are clear and unambiguous, “then its terms will control over those in” the statute.
So, what does all that mean to you? It means that you should exercise great caution before entering into any kind of binding agreement, including a marital settlement agreement. Just like any other contract, the law gives parties broad freedom over the terms of their contracts, including the freedom to contract away certain rights or options they might otherwise have had under statutory law. To make sure you are creating the best marital settlement agreement possible for you and your family, talk to the South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. Our attorneys have been providing clients with thoughtful advice and effective representation for many years. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.
More blog posts:
Florida Court Rules that a Husband Who Lost His Job Was Entitled to an Extra 10 Months of Retroactivity on His Alimony Modification, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Nov. 21, 2018
How to Go About Seeking a Modification Order in Florida Increasing the Amount of Alimony You’re Receiving, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Oct. 26, 2018