Challenge, Defense and Drafting of Agreements

(Prenuptial, postnuptial, cohabitation, separation, and settlement agreements)

Courts in Florida historically were reluctant to uphold premarital and post-marital agreements because it was believed that such agreements were contrary to the spirit and sanctity of marriage. However, today the Courts routinely enforce such agreements, which expand or limit a party’s rights under existing family laws either before or during the marriage.

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 may be challenged, including, but not limited to the following claims:

  • Involuntary execution
  • Fraud
  • Duress
  • Overreaching
  • Undue influence
  • Incapacity to contract
  • The agreement violates public policy
  • The agreement was unconscionable

Premarital, prenuptial, antenuptial and postnuptial agreements and marital settlement agreements are contracts that are generally enforceable under Florida law.

Challenges to enforcement of these agreements require proof that certain elements exist—and the party challenging the contract has the burden of proof to have an agreement set aside. For example, 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 the elements he or she is claiming should invalidate part or all of the agreement. Otherwise, the agreement will be upheld.

In October of 2007, Florida adopted the Uniform Prenuptial Agreement Act (“UPAA”), with changes, and those provisions apply to prenuptial agreements entered into after that date.  Florida has joined the majority of states that have enacted the UPAA.

 Often a spouse who has entered into an agreement may want to enforce or defend the agreement and its terms, rather than set it aside. Enforceability and interpretation of an agreement are two common areas of dispute in family law. In determining whether a contract should be enforced, and often more importantly, how it should be enforced, the Court must resolve disputes as to the interpretation of the agreement’s language.

The Court will employ certain rules in interpreting these contracts.

  • It will consider whether the interpretive issue is one of law or fact
  • It will apply rules of construction and interpretation to determine the meaning of a contract’s terms
  • It will ascertain whether the contract is ambiguous or clear and unambiguous
  • It will determine whether extrinsic evidence (parol evidence) will be admitted to determine the interpretive dispute or whether it is possible to determine the parties’ intent from the writing alone.

Because grammar, language and the rules of construction can become critical factors in the way in which a court views a contract provision, 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 addressing 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.

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