An agreement is a contract, whether it is a premarital/prenuptial/antenuptial agreement, a postnuptial agreement, or a marital settlement agreement. In recent years, family courts have solidified the trend towards upholding and giving legal effect to premarital and postmarital contracts. While historically, the courts were reluctant to give effect to these agreements because it was believed that such agreements were contrary to the spirit and sanctity of marriage, today, courts in Florida routinely enforce these agreements that expand or limits a party’s rights under the existing family laws, whether prior to or during the marriage.
Nevertheless, whether or not a contract should be enforced is a question often raised in family law cases. There are a number of ways a contract is challenged, including, but not limited to claims of fraud, duress, overreaching, or undue influence. These defenses to enforcement of an agreement require that certain elements be proven. The party seeking to set aside the contract has the burden of proving the elements of each defense to an agreement. In other words, if a spouse enters into a prenuptial agreement and then the parties file for dissolution of marriage, the spouse seeking to have the prenuptial agreement set aside will have to make a strong showing of each element of each defense to the agreement that he or she claims. Otherwise, the agreement will be upheld.
On the other hand, a spouse who has entered into an agreement may want to enforce or defend the agreement and its terms. Enforceability and interpretation of an agreement are two common areas of dispute in family law. In determining whether a contract should be enforced, the court must resolve disputes as to the interpretation of the agreement’s language. First the court determines whether the disputed provision is ambiguous. If the agreement is unambiguous, then the court interprets the agreement and enforces the language. If there is ambiguity in the language of the agreement, then the parties may present evidence to help the judge decide how to interpret the ambiguous provision of the agreement.
Because grammar and language can become critical factors in the way in which a contract is interpreted, it is important to have an attorney with knowledge and experience dealing with contractual disputes. At Nicole L. Goetz, P.L. the attorneys have extensive experience drafting these agreements and handling family law cases that involve disputes over both the enforceability and interpretation of prenuptial, postnuptial, cohabitation, separation, and marital settlement agreements. If you are seeking confidential legal advice regarding the drafting of an agreement or the possible challenge to or enforcement of an agreement, we can help. Contact us to schedule a confidential consultation with our attorneys at our office in Naples, Florida.