Premarital Agreements

Florida Case Summary

In Schecter v Schecter 38 Fla L.Weekly D517, the former wife appealed a nonfinal order terminating her former husband’s agreed to and court ratified temporary alimony and attorneys fee obligation. The court found no abuse of discretion and the trial court’s decision to terminate the payment of the wife’s temporary alimony but found the order terminating the payment of her temporary fees to be without support.

The parties had executed a prenuptial agreement in which the former husband agreed that in the event their contemplated marriage ended in divorce, the wife would receive only $260,000 from the husband. The husband sought to enforce the agreement .The court found that the prenuptial agreement was valid and enforceable. No determination was made as to the wife’s entitlement to attorneys fees or the reasonableness of any previously awarded fees. The husband then filed a motion to terminate temporary support temporary attorneys fees and costs and for the return of an automobile and for other relief claiming that the continued compliance with the parties prior agreement would give the former wife and undeserved windfall because the amount of alimony that she was to receive pursuant to the prenuptial agreement was substantially less than sums paid in temporary support and fees.

The appellate court stated that proceedings under Chapter 61 are in equity and governed by basic rules of fairness as opposed to strict rules of law.

The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision to terminate the former husband’s temporary support obligation. Section 61.14 of the Florida statutes provides that a court may, upon good cause shown, and without a showing of a substantial change of circumstances, modify vacate or set aside a temporary support order before or upon entering a final order in a proceeding.

The appellate court did not approve the trial court’s decision to terminate the former husband’s temporary fee obligation. The purpose of Florida statute 61.16 is to ensure that both parties will have a similar ability to obtain competent legal counsel, and ensure that one party is not limited in the type of representation he or she would receive because that parties financial position is so inferior to that of the other party. The parties in this case made no attempt to contract away or waive the entitlement the temporary support including temporary attorneys fees, pending the entry of the final judgment. The former wife is entitled to receive temporary attorneys fees and costs, less the former husband can demonstrate that consideration of the financial resources of both parties or some other equitable comparative mandates termination of those payments.

Premarital Agreements – A lack of full disclosure and a lack of basic fairness are the common reoccurring themes involved in premarital agreements. The leading Florida case of Del Vecchio v. Del Vecchio sets forth the essential requirements for premarital agreements. Premarital agreements are to be fair and reasonable for the wife, with a full and frank disclosure of the husband’s worth or with the wife’s general and estimated knowledge of the husband’s worth. Other cases have required additional information such that the wife needed to have knowledge of the husband’s income and that the contract needed to be entered into freely without violating public policy. The court requests consideration for a premarital agreement, although entering into a marriage is a valid consideration to support a premarital agreement. The case Del Vecchio v. Del Vecchio, expresses that the wife’s standard of living should be fairly consistent with that of her marriage and not less than that existing before the marriage.

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