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.
The statute also lists fraud, duress, coercion, and overreaching as bases for setting a prenup aside. Possible types of fraud that can invalidate a prenup include lying about one’s assets or debts, or intentionally misrepresenting one of the terms of the agreement, such as misstating the amount of spousal support that would be paid under the agreement.
While duress can involve threatening harm to a spouse or his or her family, a more common variety of duress involves presenting the prenup to your spouse on the eve of your wedding and threatening not to marry without your spouse’s signature. A 1995 case involving a Naples couple centered around a husband’s presenting a prenuptial agreement to his wife-to-be two days before their wedding and refusing to marry her if she did not sign. The court in that case declared this to constitute duress. Nine years later, a court determined that a South Florida wife placed in a similar situation was not under duress because she received her prenup two weeks before the wedding, not two days.
Courts can invalidate prenuptial agreements on the basis of overreaching when one spouse, who is the partner in a position of superior bargaining power, obtains an agreement that is excessively one-sided in his or her favor. A 1990 case originating in Palm Beach County yielded this result, after a husband, who had no attorney, signed an agreement that gave his wife, who was represented by counsel, the house, the equity in the house, the vehicle, alimony, and attorney’s fees. All of the couple’s debt went to the husband, leaving him with $450 per month on which to live. In that case, the extremely disproportionate distribution, combined with the fact that only one spouse had a lawyer, was enough to constitute overreaching.
Also, the spouses can simply choose to revoke the prenuptial agreement. This revocation must be in writing and signed by both spouses.
If you signed a prenuptial agreement and are facing the possibility of divorce, it is important to understand your rights. Even if you don’t have a celebrity chef’s or famous actress’ wealth, experienced legal counsel can provide invaluable help as you make your case, regardless of whether you are seeking to enforce the agreement or set it aside. For knowledgeable advice and determined representation, talk to the South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. Our skilled lawyers have aided many others with cases like yours and can help you, too.
Contact us online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.
More blog posts:
Lack of Due Process, Improper Burden-Shifting Sends Divorce Case Back to Trial Court, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Jan. 12, 2015
Be Careful to Avoid Coercion When Seeking Spouse’s Signature on Prenuptial Agreement, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Dec. 27, 2013