A prenuptial agreement can decide many issues in a divorce before the couple even marries. This can be a good way to streamline the property division process in the event of a divorce. Some couples feel that a prenuptial agreement can even strengthen their marriage, as it requires honesty and fairness. However, prenuptial agreements are not foolproof.
The Florida Supreme Court recently issued a ruling that may affect property division for some couples with prenuptial agreements. The case involves a couple who married in 1987 after signing a prenuptial agreement that each spouse would keep their own premarital properties should the marriage be dissolved. In 2010, the wife filed for divorce. As the couple divided their assets, they disagreed over the ownership of two pieces of property.
The wife was not listed as an owner on the property titles. However, she maintained that her husband had given them to her as a gift. The trial court agreed, stating that the properties were joint marital assets, since the husband and wife resided on them while married. Moreover, the trial court stated that the husband had other pieces of property that he did not treat the same as the ones in dispute, proving further that there was donative intent with regards to the disputed properties.
An appellate court overruled the trial court's decision, but the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the appellate court did not use the correct standard of review in its decision. The Supreme Court ruled that the trial court was correct in finding "competent and substantial evidence" to support a finding that the properties at issue were considered marital property per Florida law.
As this shows, interpreting prenuptial agreements in the event of a divorce and applying the correct law when it comes to property division is not always clear. Some parties can argue that something that was initially listed as separate property should actually be considered marital property.
It is important for anyone considering a prenuptial agreement, or anyone going through a divorce with a prenuptial agreement in place, to speak to an attorney about their options.
Source: Florida Record, "Florida Supreme Court determines properties in divorce dispute had interspousal gift intent," Tricia Erickson, April 19, 2017