The law gives parties wide latitude in how they structure the terms of their contractual agreements. The same is generally true when it comes to spouses and the terms of their prenuptial agreements. For example, one Florida couple entered into a prenuptial agreement that waived all rights to future alimony claims but permitted the wife to receive a “salary” for two years after a divorce. According to a recent Fourth District Court of Appeal ruling, that agreement was valid and meant that the courts could not order an award of alimony and couldn’t use contempt powers if the husband didn’t pay the salary.
A Florida man successfully appealed a trial court ruling that declared the couple’s home to be the wife’s separate property. The Fifth District Court of Appeal overturned the trial court’s ruling, based upon the wording contained in the couple’s prenuptial agreement. That agreement gave each spouse the right to give away, sell, or distribute via estate planning tools his or her separate property. By transferring the title of the couple’s home from her name alone to the husband’s name alone, the wife completed exactly such a valid gift, which made the property the husband’s alone.
An important new Florida Supreme Court decision helps clarify the applicability of waivers in prenuptial agreements. The court concluded that, if a prenuptial agreement’s terms made it clear that a spouse was waiving and releasing all rights and claims to the other spouse’s separate property, that waiver included the increase in value of those non-marital assets, even if the agreement did not expressly cover increased value, and the increase was due to marital efforts or funds.
The case brought to a conclusion the divorce dispute between H.H. (husband), a mortgage broker, and his wife, D.H. The couple married in February 1986 and remained married for 22 years. The month before their marriage, both spouses signed a prenuptial agreement. The agreement stated that, if the spouses purchased a property in both their names, the asset was presumed to be owned 50-50 between them, but if the husband purchased an asset in his own name, even during the marriage, that asset was his separate property.
One of the more popular celebrity news stories of this spring has involved the impending divorce of renowned chef and Food Network TV star Bobby Flay, who filed to end his decade-long marriage to actress Stephanie March. According to a celebrity news website, TMZ, the couple signed a prenuptial agreement before their 2005 wedding, but the wife plans to challenge the validity of the agreement. While the dispute regarding the Flay-March prenuptial agreement will, unless settled between the spouses, be decided by a New York court, the story does raise a relevant issue for Floridians with prenuptial agreements who are contemplating divorce: namely, what are circumstances under which Florida law will prevent a prenuptial agreement’s enforcement?
Florida Statutes Section 61.07(7) sets out a list of several reasons why a prenuptial agreement can be set aside. If one of the spouses did not sign the document voluntarily, it is not enforceable. If a spouse received cash or other valuable assets in exchange for signing the prenup, that may allow for setting the agreement aside.
In one recent Florida divorce, a trial court’s failure to give the husband a meaningful opportunity to be heard in the case, as well as the court’s improper shifting of the burden of proof from the wife to the husband regarding whether Scotland law or Florida law should govern the divorce, forced the 5th District Court of Appeal to reverse the trial court and send the case back for a new trial.
Before the former couple married in Scotland, they executed a “Minute of Agreement,” which is the approximate equivalent of a prenuptial agreement. The couple’s agreement stated that, if they divorced, the court deciding the case should use Scottish law.
Prenuptial agreements are extremely valuable tools to establish financial boundaries and protect assets each spouse brings into the marriage. To be legal, both spouses must make a genuinely voluntary decision to sign the agreement. Forcing your future spouse to sign a prenuptial agreement in the middle of the night mere hours before your wedding is a recipe for failure, as it raises a strong inference that your spouse signed under duress, and not voluntarily. A husband discovered this in a recent case, where the 2d District Court of Appeal recently voided the couple’s prenuptial agreement, ruling that the husband’s timing raised a clear issue of coercion.
A man and his girlfriend scheduled their wedding for July 13, 2002, in Las Vegas. Less than a month before the wedding, he presented a draft of a prenuptial agreement to her. An attorney advised her not to sign, because the agreement waived her right to claim a statutory elective share, receive alimony or share in assets acquired during the marriage. Near midnight on the eve of the wedding, the man arrived at the Las Vegas airport, handed the girlfriend another copy of the agreement, and demanded she sign it and get it notarized. She complied.
When the wife filed for divorce in 2009, the husband asserted that the prenuptial agreement controlled the terms of asset distribution. The wife sought to set aside the agreement, arguing the court should void it because the husband improperly coerced her to sign it. The trial court sided with the husband, concluding that the wife waited too long to bring her claim of coercion, but the court of appeal overturned that ruling.
A flawed prenuptial agreement has made it all the way to the highest court of New York State, with the New York Court of Appeals ruling that a flaw in formation can be deadly to a prenup’s enforcement. In a recently decided case, the court ruled against the husband (6-0) for failing to properly acknowledge his signature. Errors like this reinforce the basic contractual nature of prenuptial agreements and stress both the formalities that must be followed and the importance of contacting an experienced matrimonial attorney when making such important life decisions.
Millionaire Corner, a website for the well-to-do, released a survey this April that dispelled commonly held stereotypes regarding certain gender views towards prenuptial agreements. When given the choice between five different views ranging from very pro-prenup to very anti-prenup, women identified more with pro-prenup side of the spectrum and their male counterparts identified more towards the antiquated, negative view of prenups. The most telling of these indicate that women lead men, 62% to 54%, in recommending a prenup to a couple getting married, and approximately 50% “don’t feel there are any disadvantages” to a prenuptial agreement between the parties. The same website published another survey days later showing counter-intuitive views of prenups held by older generations, with more than two-thirds of participants over the age of 61 recommending a prenuptial agreement.
Prenuptial agreements, as discussed in a previous post, can often include strange, unorthodox terms. A common specific type of prenup has earned a name among those in the industry: the love contract. Love contracts are meant to put on paper an agreement regarding how the intimate love life of the couple will be conducted. Often in these contracts the terms specify either frequency or methods of lovemaking.
Such language in a prenuptial agreement really can muddy the waters for very limited enforceability, and such obligatory scheduling of a generally spontaneous act could trivialize many portions of the relationship. Suzanne Pelka, a sex therapist, explains that it is “really this false sense of control that we have because we don’t know what’s gonna happen tomorrow.”
So, what happens when someone tries to fight such a clause? Typically these clauses are not enforceable within the marriage. Aside from demeaning the basic nature of intimacy, if a partner fails to meet the obligations outlined by the agreement, the only thing it may affect is the division of property during a divorce. These documents can not be referred to during the marriage or act as a supporting document to how the partner must act. No breach of contract cause of action can exist when it comes to “love contracts”.
Deion Sanders, famous football hall of fame all star, has recently gone through a divorce that can teach any person going through or expecting a divorce some important lessons.
Born in Fort Myers, Florida, Deion went on to become a star football and baseball player for the Florida State University. Playing football as a Seminole, Sanders was a two time All-American cornerback in 1986 and 1987. Deion Sanders then went on to play successfully for several MLB and NFL teams. He is most often identified for his football legacy with the Dallas Cowboys. Sanders also holds the all-time record for defensive and kick return touchdowns. Sanders currently works as an NFL analyst.
The divorce began and stalled shortly after. In September 2011, Pilar Sanders, Deion’s wife since 1999, was served with divorce papers from Deion. Deion eventually denied this service and claimed the divorce was nothing but a rumor. Then in December 2011, Deion admitted that he was getting divorced.
The divorce ultimately turned into a lengthy process as Pilar and her lawyer brought numerous contentions regarding their prenuptial agreement (“prenup”). The prenup gave Pilar $100,000 after signing and would give her $1 million upon divorce, however, she would be eligible for much more in absence of the agreement. Nonetheless, during the trial filed by Pilar to contend the prenup, questions on whether her initials were forged in certain sections led to a handwriting expert to be brought in and testify it was not authentic. In addition, there were rumors of abuse during the marriage and accusations of coercion and failure to disclose assets during the signing process.The judge ultimately upheld the validity of the prenup heavily relying on statements made by Pilar in 1999 when Pilar had testified in court that the prenup was fair to her.
According to researchers at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, a husband’s relationship with his wife’s family is a good indicator of future marriage success. A forthcoming study published in the journal Family Relations analyzed 373 married couples over a 26-year-period. At the beginning of the study, all couples were married for less than one year and each spouse was between the ages of 25 and 37. Researchers asked each member of the couple to rate how close they felt to their spouse’s family and then followed the success of each marriage over time. The study reportedly found that couples were 20 percent more likely to remain married when the husband had a good relationship with his in-laws. In addition, couples in which the wife had a good relationship with her spouse’s family were reportedly 20 percent more likely to end their marriage.
Lead study author, Dr Terri Orbuch, believes the disparity may arise from the differing ways in which men and women view themselves and their familial relationships. Orbuch said relationships are generally more important to women, so it is a positive characteristic when a man gets along with his wife’s family. For women, Orbuch stated, their role as a wife and mother tends to be very important. Orbuch believes women may become too involved in their husband’s family and fail to set boundaries. Consequently, any statements made by even a well-meaning in-law are often interpreted as meddling. Men, on the other hand, allegedly identify most with their role as a provider. According to Orbuch, husbands are simply much less likely to take the actions of their in-laws personally.
Sadly, 46 percent of the couples in the study later divorced. Although no one expects divorce to happen to them, about half of all marriages in the United States will eventually be dissolved. If you are considering marriage, you should discuss entering into a premarital agreement with your future spouse. A prenuptial agreement is a contract between the members of a couple that is signed prior to marriage. Normally, such an agreement will address how a couple’s assets will be distributed if the marriage ends. It will also describe any spousal support obligations that may arise in the event of a divorce or the death of a spouse. Entering into a premarital agreement is always a smart move. Many Florida couples who fail to enter into a prenuptial agreement before they marry later regret their decision. If you have questions about premarital agreements, you should contact a skilled family law attorney.
An estimated quarter-million weddings are reportedly cancelled in the United States every year. In addition to heartbreak and disappointment, many would-be brides and grooms often find themselves saddled with the financial hardship of relinquishing thousands of dollars. According to a recent survey, the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. has risen to about $27,000. When a wedding is cancelled, many former couples lose the money they already spent on catering, flowers, and other wedding expenditures. In response, a new business model of selling cancelled weddings was recently created.
New companies that cater to couples who seek to save money by purchasing cancelled weddings at a discount have begun to pop up across the nation. One Virginia company, Bridal Brokerage, assists couples with buying weddings that were pre-planned by another couple who opted not to get married. The company’s CEO, Laura Byrne, stated she helps clients achieve a venue, photographer, DJ, and other wedding necessities for less. According to Byrne, there are currently more couples seeking to purchase a discounted wedding than she can accommodate.
In order to sell a wedding, the couple who has opted not to marry must contact a wedding brokerage company with information such as the wedding date, the maximum number of guests the arrangements will accommodate, the cost, and other details. The brokerage company then contacts couples who seek to marry under similar circumstances to see if the potential match will work for them. If a match is made, the wedding is sold at a discount to the new couple who also become responsible for any outstanding wedding bills. The wedding brokerage company then takes a percentage of the price of the wedding and forwards the remaining money to the original couple. Although couples who choose not to marry will not recover all of the money they spent, selling their unused wedding can help to reduce their overall financial loss.
While many couples reportedly choose to contact a wedding brokerage company in order to reduce wedding costs, others simply want to save the time and hassle associated with planning each and every detail of such an event. In order to use a wedding brokerage company, however, a couple must generally be willing to get married within two to six months. Additionally, wedding purchasers must be flexible because not everything will be personalized. Still, important details such as the dress, party favors, and invitations must be selected by the new couple.
According to Byrne, her company’s target market is couples who are constrained by money or circumstances, not those who have always dreamed of planning the perfect storybook wedding. Byrne stated in addition to the budget conscious, she often assists couples on an accelerated wedding timeline due to military deployments or pregnancy.
Although no one who is engaged to be married expects to be left at the altar or become divorced, entering into a prenuptial agreement prior to marrying is always a smart move. A prenuptial agreement is a contract entered into by a bride and groom before marriage. Such an agreement will normally address how a couple’s assets will be distributed and any spousal support obligations that may arise in the event of a divorce or the death of a spouse. Too often, couples in Florida fail to enter into a prenuptial agreement and later regret their decision.