Florida Court Explains When Post-Marital Settlement Agreement Discovery is Permitted

In Florida divorce actions, the parties will often engage in discovery to gain a better understanding of their separate and marital assets. Such discovery generally must be completed before the parties enter into a marital settlement agreement. There are exceptions to the general rule, however, such as when one party alleges the other fraudulently withheld information regarding their property interests. In a recent Florida ruling, the court discussed when allegations of fraud constitute grounds for permitting post-marital settlement agreement discovery. If you intend to seek a divorce, it is smart to speak to a Miami divorce lawyer about what actions you can take to protect your interests.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the parties, who were in the process of divorcing, entered into a marital settlement agreement (MSA) that addressed alimony, child support, property distribution, and bank accounts, stating that each party would retain 100% interest in the accounts titled under their respective names. The agreement also acknowledged that the parties had legal representation and the opportunity for discovery and waived the right to engage in additional discovery. The parties represented that they had sufficient knowledge of each other’s financial circumstances before executing the MSA.

Allegedly, the court incorporated the MSA into the final dissolution judgment. The wife subsequently moved to set aside the MSA, alleging that the former husband had fraudulently withheld information by opening two undisclosed bank accounts shortly before the MSA was finalized and filed notices of intent to subpoena the two non-party banks involved. The husband objected to the subpoenas, which were overruled. He then appealed.

On appeal, the husband argued that the wife was not entitled to the requested financial discovery until the trial court invalidated the MSA. The court noted that although there is a policy favoring the finality of judgments, the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure allow a court to set aside a final order, including one ratifying and incorporating an MSA, on the grounds of fraud, misrepresentation or misconduct by the adverse party.

In the subject case, however, the court found that the wife’s motion to set aside the MSA lacked specificity with regard to her allegations of fraud or misrepresentation. Therefore, the court determined that the trial court should consider the sufficiency of the allegations and conduct an evidentiary hearing to decide if the wife could have discovered this information before signing the MSA and quashed the subpoena.

Talk to a Dedicated Miami Attorney

Parties to divorce actions will often engage in discovery prior to entering into a marital settlement agreement, and they may be permitted to engage in post-agreement discovery in some cases as well. If you are interested in discussing your rights with regard to marital property in a divorce action, it is smart to talk to a lawyer. The dedicated Miami lawyers of the Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. can advise you of your options and help you to seek a just resolution. Our office is located in Aventura, and we regularly represent parties in divorce actions in Miami. You can reach us through our online form or at 800-596-0579 to schedule a consultation.