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Starting A Marriage Off Right

New property owners do not expect the house to burn down, and they certainly do not desire such an outcome. But they nevertheless take out insurance policies, to be prepared for the unexpected. A premarital agreement is much the same, because although no one anticipates or desires a divorce, the unexpected does sometimes happen.

Furthermore, although some people believe that marital agreements create discord, they actually help promote marital harmony. Money is the leading cause of spousal conflict, and a solid prenuptial contract removes this element from the marriage.

Forming a Premarital Agreement

Like most other jurisdictions, Florida has adopted the Uniform Marital and Premarital Agreements Act. The UMPAA promotes consistent results across state borders, so newlywed couples can settle almost anywhere and know that their agreements will be enforced according to the parties’ intent, to the greatest extent possible.

Premarital agreements are such good planning tools because they can cover a wide range of financial and nonfinancial issues, including:

  • Spousal Support: A marital property agreement can limit future alimony payments or even eliminate them altogether, in some situations.
  • Property Division: A mutual agreement can distinguish between marital and nonmarital property, saving time and attorneys’ fees in any future litigation.
  • Ownership Rights: This dynamic is particularly important in subsequent marriages that involve step-children.

No premarital agreement can cover subjects that are void under public policy, such as the amount and duration of child support payments.

Breaking a Premarital Agreement

Spousal agreements may be challenged in the same way as any other contracts; for example, the terms may be unclear or there may be no consideration, which is basically give-and-take, for the promises that are contained therein. But such challenges are difficult to win, especially if an attorney prepared the documents.

No contract is ironclad, however, and there are certain challenges available under the UMPAA, including:

  • Involuntary: Generally speaking, an agreement is involuntary if one side withholds critical information and the other side has no other way to easily obtain such information.
  • Unconscionable: An agreement that is so one-sided when it is made that it shocks the consciousness is usually invalid.

Most property agreements contain severance clauses, so if one part is declared invalid, the remainder still stands.

Some baseball fans may remember Frank and Jamie McCourt, the billionaire power couple who once owned the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 2011, while the franchise was in bankruptcy, Jamie McCourt agreed to give up her share of franchise ownership in exchanged for about $200 million in cash and property. Less than a year later, Frank McCourt sold the team for $2.15 billion.

Ms. McCourt tried to have the agreement overturned, since it left her roughly $800 million short of a 50-50 split. But a court determined that the agreement was not unconscionable when it was made and that Ms. McCourt had access to the same information as Mr. McCourt, so her challenge was unsuccessful.

Rely on Experienced Attorneys

A property agreement can be an integral part of a healthy marriage. For a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Lucie County and all throughout the Treasure Coast area.

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