The Differences Between Prenuptial Agreements, Postnuptial Agreements and Marital Settlement Agreements in Florida

You’ve probably heard of ”prenuptial agreements” and perhaps “marital settlement agreements,” too. Another agreement, slightly less well-known but no less important, is the “postnuptial agreement.” Each of these three types of legally binding agreements can be very powerful tools and have a very substantial impact on you should you go through a divorce. For those reasons (and others,) it is important to have a knowledgeable South Florida family law attorney on your side to advise you on the differences and how best to protect yourself and your family.

A prenuptial agreement is, of course, an agreement made in anticipation of marriage and a marital settlement agreement is made in anticipation of an order of divorce. A postnuptial agreement is something, however, that a couple can create either in anticipation of divorce (as the marriage is breaking down) or while the marriage is still vibrant and intact.

A recent case from Palm Beach County highlighted some of the differences between each of those agreements in terms of enforceability and the importance of those differences. The case involved G.S. and D.S., who married in 1977 but separated for a time in the mid-1990s. They eventually got back together and, in late 1996, they signed an agreement that dealt with the distribution of certain assets in the event of a divorce. At that time, the pair was married, living together and not even thinking about getting divorced.

In 2003, the couple separated again. Both spouses filed for divorce but, a few months later, they got back together once again, dismissing their divorce filings. A decade after that, the marriage finally broke down for good. The husband filed for divorce and asked the court to enforce the terms of the 1996 agreement that both spouses signed.

The wife opposed this, arguing that the couple’s 2003 reconciliation had wiped out the enforceability of that 1996 agreement. The wife’s argument contended that the 1996 agreement could only have still been enforceable if it had specific wording in it that said that “reconciliation or remarriage will not abrogate the executory provisions of the Agreement,” which this couple’s document did not.

Reconciliation has no impact on this kind of agreement

The husband ultimately succeeded, however, after he took his case to the appeals court. The husband was successful because his legal team understood what the 1996 agreement was, what is was not, and what difference that made in terms of the rights the husband still held. The wife’s argument that the couple’s 2003 reconciliation voided the 1996 agreement would have been accurate – if the 1996 agreement had been a marital settlement agreement. But it was not.

It also would have been true if the agreement had been a postnuptial agreement created in anticipation of divorce. However, this 1996 agreement was a postnuptial agreement that was executed when the couple was not even contemplating divorce. That meant that the 1996 agreement could not qualify either as a marital settlement agreement or as a postnuptial agreement established in anticipation of divorce which, in turn, meant that the 2003 reconciliation had no impact on the agreement’s enforceability.

In other words, the 1996 agreement remained valid and the husband was entitled to demand its enforcement.

Whether you are seeking to create a prenuptial agreement, a postnuptial agreement or a marital settlement agreement, you need the right legal counsel on your side throughout the process in order to ensure that the document you sign is one that is fair to you. Count on the knowledgeable South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A., and our many years of experience to provide you with the effective representation you need. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.