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How airtight are Florida pre-nuptial agreements?

The answer used to depend on how well the prenuptial agreement was drafted. Missing a few key words or using overly broad language could later invalidate the agreement.

A Florida Supreme Court decision makes it easier for spouses to claim individual property and assets through their pre-nuptial agreement.

The husband and wife in the case had signed a pre-nuptial agreement in 1986. The document did not directly address any increase in the value of the husband's property resulting from his marital labor or funds. The justices looked to the plain meaning of the language and characterized the following nonmarital:

  • Any property owned at the time of the premarital agreement
  • Any property that the husband acquired solely in his name afterwards.

The appreciation in value of the property was also nonmarital - meaning the court did not need to divide it between the spouses. The wife did receive $1.9 million as promised in the pre-nup.

This decision in effect overturned prior appellate court rulings that held appreciation of an individual asset over the course of a marriage was marital property if the pre-nup was silent on the issue. Courts in the state had been equitably dividing the increase in value between the spouses.

Waiver of future rights

Following the decision, it will likely be harder to break a pre-nuptial agreement. This underscores the importance of understanding your rights as well as what you might be giving up before signing a pre-nup.

Remember that once signed these agreements do not go away even after they have sat in a file folder gathering dust for 25 years.

Why do you need a pre-nuptial agreement?

Many reasons exist to seek a pre-nup. You may be entering a second marriage after an acrimonious divorce or seeking to protect a thriving company you have built up over many years. A pre-nuptial agreement will control the division of property, business interests and alimony at the end of marriage.

Carefully consider the assets at stake and the date of the upcoming marriage. For instance, leaving out valuable property or failing to leave enough time for each party to obtain legal advice could cause problems. Speak with a skilled family law attorney who can offer individualized advice, so your pre-nuptial agreement properly reflects your wishes while protecting your rights.

Source: Daily Business Review,"Florida Supreme Court Justices Strengthen Waiver Rule in Prenuptials," Noreen Marcus, Sept. 28, 2015

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