This is the next post in a series discussing appeals in divorce cases in Melbourne, Florida. My last post focused on appealing spousal support determinations. Understanding which decisions may be challenged and how to navigate the system is something an experienced appeals attorney can help with. Given the long-term consequences of support determinations, it is important to engage counsel as early in the process as possible to protect your rights. In this article, I will discuss the unique set of issues that arise when a couple has a prenuptial agreement in place. If you need assistance, contact my office today to speak with a lawyer.
A prenuptial agreement is a contract signed by the husband and wife before they get married, which sets out specific terms related to how they will handle their divorce if the marriage should fail. It may be a complete prenuptial agreement, covering all items that would potentially arise in a divorce such as support obligations, division of property, identifying non-marital property, etc. Other types of premarital contracts are limited to very specific terms, such as carving out the individual’s vehicles from the pool of marital property. In these situations, should the marriage fail, the remaining issues would be handled in accordance with state law like a typical divorce proceeding.
To be enforceable in a court of law, a prenuptial agreement must meet certain standards. First, it must have been entered into voluntarily by the parties. Second, it must not be unconscionable or unfair in an unscrupulous way. Third, the parties must have made full disclosure of their assets and liabilities at the time the agreement was signed. As one can imagine, the circumstances around signing a prenuptial agreement are typically much remembered differently when the couple is in the throws of a nasty divorce. A party may argue that the agreement is not enforceable based on one of the elements listed above. The court will ultimately decide whether to uphold the prenuptial agreement in the divorce proceeding. A party who disagrees with the court’s application of the law to the evidence presented at trial may challenge the determination on appeal.
For example, suppose a court enforces a couple’s prenuptial agreement despite the husband’s claims that he entered it involuntarily. The husband presented evidence at trial that he was presented with the document the day before the wedding and did not have an opportunity to adequately review the agreement with his own counsel. The lower court ruled that despite the late notice, the agreement contained a provision stating he entered the contract voluntarily and with the benefit of the advice of counsel. In addition, he testified that he had discussed the agreement with his wife’s lawyer who drafted the contract on the day it was delivered. On appeal, the court may determine that the agreement is not enforceable based on the short notice coupled with the consultation with a lawyer who did not represent his interests.
For obvious reasons, disagreements about prenuptial agreements can be contentious. The court’s determinations will depend on the facts of each specific case. In these situations, it is best to have an experienced appeals attorney to adequately represent your interests. If you need assistance contact my office today to speak with a lawyer.
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.