Why Would My Prenuptial Agreement be Deemed Invalid During my Florida Divorce?
Prior to marriage some couples agree to enter into an agreement that becomes effective upon the marriage date. These agreements are known as prenuptial agreements and they are legally binding in the state of Florida. However, when some of these prenuptial contracts come before the court in a divorce proceeding, they may be deemed invalid for a myriad of reasons. These agreements are regulated by Florida Statute 61.079 and have certain requirements that must be adhered to in order to be deemed enforceable. It is important to discuss with your Orlando Divorce Attorney the necessary requirements of such an agreement and the validity of your premarital contract.
Florida statute 61.079(4) provides that prenuptial agreements may address any property of either spouse, and their respective rights to said property, the disposition of such assets and debts upon separation, dissolution or death; the award of alimony or lack thereof, rights to any life insurance policies or trust agreements, choice of law regarding the agreement and or any other items the couple deems necessary so long as they are not in violation of public policy or law. However, these agreements may not address items such as child support, custody or parental time sharing. Such items are against public policy and may result in the entire agreement being unenforceable.
When entering a divorce where a prenuptial agreement exists, the court will first determine the validity of such an agreement. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to find such an agreement to be invalid. Reasons that a court may find an agreement to be invalid include: a party entered into the agreement involuntarily, the agreement was a product of fraud, duress, coercion, or overreaching, the agreement was unconscionable, or the agreement did not meet statutory formalities. (61.079(3), 61.079(7)).
A failure to meet statutory formalities is the simplest way to prove an unenforceable prenuptial agreement. Florida statute requires the agreement to be in writing, and be signed by both parties. If only signed by one party, or if one party forged the signature of another, the agreement is invalid. Similarly, the agreement cannot be oral. There must be a written document presented to the court for its consideration. If considering a prenuptial agreement prior to your marriage, your Orlando Divorce Attorney can draft this agreement for you and ensure the statutory guidelines are followed.
A prenuptial agreement signed involuntarily, under fraud, duress, or coercion may also be found invalid. Such instances may occur if one party is threatened into signing the agreement or you were not provided enough time to review the document. This has been seen in cases where one party presented a prenup to another spouse days before a wedding ceremony. The court found this to be a coercive tactic and did not provide the second party enough time to review the document in its entirety. Florida law requires adequate time for review before entering into any formal agreement. If you were presented with an agreement with little to no time for review, discuss with your Orlando Divorce Attorney its validity.
Finally, a prenuptial agreement may be found unenforceable if it was unconscionable. An agreement will be deemed unconscionable by a court if a party:
“a. Was not provided a fair and reasonable disclosure of the property or financial obligations of the other party;
b. Did not voluntarily and expressly waive, in writing, any right to disclosure of the property or financial obligations of the other party beyond the disclosure provided; and
c. Did not have, or reasonably could not have had, an adequate knowledge of the property or financial obligations of the other party.”
A full disclosure of all financial assets and liabilities is critical when entering into such agreement. Florida courts require all parties to bargain for in good faith which entails full disclosures. If a spouse is found to have hidden relevant information, they can be in breach of their good faith obligation. If you have found that your spouse has hidden assets, discuss this with your Orlando Divorce Attorney and we will work with you to disclose such tactics to the court and rule your agreement invalid.
Before signing any agreement, either prenuptial or postnuptial, contact a knowledgeable Orlando Divorce Attorney who can review your agreement and counsel you on needed changes or the validity of the document that you are being asked to sign.
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