A prenuptial agreement can be an effective tool for two people to settle the division of assets upon the dissolution of the marriage. Prenuptial agreements can be complex agreements that should be approached with great care and diligence. Both parties to the agreement should have a full understanding of the subject of the agreement and retain counsel to advocate for their interests. One common element of prenuptial agreements is a waiver and release of claims, which can vary in specificity. In Hahamovitch v. Hahamovitch, the Supreme Court of Florida determined the validity of general waivers as they relate to certain marital property and claims.
Issue of the Case
In Hahamovitch v. Hahamovitch, the husband and wife executed a prenuptial agreement before marriage, which lasted for 22 years and produced two children. The prenuptial agreement contained:
- a general waiver and release that barred the wife from asserting any claim to the husband’s property, and to any rights she otherwise accrued as a result of the marriage, such as alimony, support and maintenance, equitable distribution, division of property, or attorneys’ fees;
- a provision that each spouse shall keep sole ownership of their respective property that was acquired before or after the marriage, and that each waived all right to the other’s assets; and
- a presumption that property titled in one spouse’s name was deemed to be that spouse’s property.
Upon their divorce, the wife claimed that the general waiver did not apply to her right to her share of her husband’s earnings, assets purchased with those earnings, or any appreciation or enhanced value of her husband’s assets as a result of marital efforts. Before the Hahamovitch decision, Florida courts were split as to whether a general waiver as described above is a valid means to waive a spouse’s right to such assets.
The Court’s Ruling
In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court of Florida settled an important legal issue in Florida divorce law. The court held that prenuptial agreements that contain a general waiver that provides that each spouse:
- disclaims all interest in the other spouse’s property;
- will be the sole owner of property purchased in their own name; and
- waives all claims that they may have as a result of the marriage, e.g., alimony;
…are valid and will prevent each spouse from claiming a share of property owned and titled in the other spouse’s name, regardless if that property was purchased with marital assets or appreciated in value because of efforts by the non-owner spouse.
Impact on Prenuptial Agreements
Before Hahamovitch, Florida courts varied on the specificity required for waivers for certain marital assets, such as a spouse’s earnings. The court’s decision brings clarity in that a properly drafted waiver can serve to preclude claims otherwise allowed under Florida law.
Considering or Need Help with a Prenuptial Agreement?
Prenuptial agreements are complex and require careful consideration, especially when they contain a broad waiver and release of claims. The divorce attorneys at All Family Law Group, P.A. have the knowledge and skill necessary to protect your interest in entering and exiting a marriage. If you need help or have questions about your divorce or prenuptial agreement, contact the Tampa family and divorce lawyers at All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa Bay at 813-816-2232 for a consultation at no charge or email us.
By Lynette Silon-Laguna Google+