Sometimes, the story of your marriage and divorce, for purposes of your divorce case, can be very straightforward. Many times, though, it’s not. Many, if not most, divorcing couples, have some nuance, quirk or other atypical element to their story. To make sure that you are getting the best possible outcome from your divorce case, it pays to have a skilled South Florida family law attorney on your side to spot those unique things and to help you understand what those things can mean for you.
J.H. and W.S. were one of those couples with an atypical element in their case. They married in 1997. Late in 2000, they separated. The pair was quite serious about divorcing, with the wife filing a divorce petition and the pair completing and signing a marital settlement agreement early in 2001.
Then… fate intervened. The husband received a diagnosis of colon cancer and the two got back together. The wife dismissed her divorce filing and (according to the wife, anyway) resumed living together as husband-and-wife for another 15 years.
In the summer of 2016, they separated again… this time for good. Once again, the wife filed for divorce. In his response filing, the husband mentioned the existence of the 2001 settlement agreement and asked for its enforcement as part of the divorce. The wife, on the other hand, argued that the settlement agreement did not survive once the couple reunited in 2001 and resumed their married life.
So, who was right?
The wife. The Court of Appeal ruled for her, pointing out that a 1995 Florida Supreme Court case said that “reconciliation of husband and wife and resumption of marital relations for any period of time will render a previous contract and settlement of property rights void.” Put into plain English, if you create a marital settlement agreement but then reconcile and go back to living as husband and wife, then that reconciliation generally nullifies the settlement agreement.
There is an exception that exists. A reconciliation will nullify a settlement agreement “unless there is an explicit statement in the agreement that the parties intended otherwise.” In other words, if your settlement agreement specifically acknowledges reconciliation, or its potential, and says what will happen in that event, then that kind of settlement agreement can survive reconciliation. Otherwise, it doesn’t.
In J.H. and W.S.’s case, they didn’t have that kind of settlement agreement that contemplated reconciliation and a resumption of the marriage. The agreement stated that the pair would live “separate and apart.” The wife’s evidence showed that the pair lived together for a decade and a half after the reconciliation, so the agreement wasn’t enforceable.
Even if you and your spouse never separated, signed a divorce settlement agreement, reconciled before the divorce became final, resumed the marriage and then got divorced later, chances are that there is something unique about your story. The skilled South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. have the experience and the know-how to take your specific story and help guide you toward the right path for a positive result. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.