This is the next post in a series of articles about understanding prenuptial agreements in Melbourne, Florida. The previous post discussed the requirements to create an enforceable prenuptial agreement. It also encouraged those considering entering a premarital contract to consult with an experienced attorney to help ensure that the requirements are met. This article will explain how the actions of the spouses during their marriage may also impact the enforceability of their prenuptial agreement. Certain actions may invalidate the parties original intentions and eliminate the protections they desired to create in the contract. If you have questions about prenuptial agreements, contact my office to speak with a family lawyer.
As previously discussed, a prenuptial agreement can be limited in scope to protect a specific asset of one spouse or protect a spouse from the debt of another. Alternatively, a prenuptial agreement can be designed to separate all assets and liabilities of each spouse from the others. Depending upon the nature of the contract, the spouses should be aware that certain actions taken during the course of the marriage could invalidate the parties intentions. As a general rule, each spouse should take particular care to maintain the separateness of the assets and liabilities identified in the prenuptial agreement non-marital property. This is perhaps best demonstrated by the following examples.
Consider the following. Husband and Wife enter a limited prenuptial agreement for the sole purpose of keeping their residence the separate marital property of Husband. At the time of the marriage, Husband owns the home outright and wants to preserve his equity. During the course of the marriage, Husband elects to obtain a home equity loan for the purpose of making repairs to the home and for other general family needs. He isn’t working and credit is not satisfactory to the bank alone so Wife co-signs the note, which is for half of the home’s value and payable over 10 years. As the sole breadwinner, Wife pays the entire balance of the note over the 10 year term. The parties decide to divorce and Husband claims that Wife is not entitled to the house in accordance with the prenuptial agreement. A court may decide that Wife’s repayment of the home equity loan is sufficient to invalidate the provision in the contract.
Now consider a situation where the parties signed an all-encompassing prenuptial agreement primarily because Wife owed a significant debt to the IRS from before the marriage. All bank accounts, wages, and assets were designed to be separate so as to prevent the IRS from seizing any property of Husband to satisfy the debt. If during the course of their marriage, the couple opens a joint checking account into which they deposit a portion of each of their paychecks. Although Husband’s wages were deemed separate in the premarital agreement, the IRS may be able to access the wages added to the joint bank account because the couples commingled their separate property in contravention of their agreement. Each couple’s situation, of course, will depend upon the specific terms of their agreement and the facts surrounding the challenge.
If you are considering a prenuptial agreement or have questions about how to comply with an existing agreement, contact my office today for assistance. My office serves clients in the cities of Titusville, Cocoa, Palm Bay, Grant, Valkaria, and Rockledge, as well as in the Indian River County areas of Fellsmere, Sebastian, Vero Beach, Indian River Shores, and Orchid.