Florida Supreme Court Approves Fourth DCA Decision That Broad Language of Waiver in Prenuptial Agreement is Sufficient to Waive a Spouse’s Claim to Assets Acquired or Enhancement in Value
Hahamovitch v. Hahamovitch, SC14-277 (Fla. Sept. 10, 2015).
The Florida Supreme Court recently approved of a Fourth DCA decision holding that broad language of waiver in a prenuptial agreement is sufficient to waive a spouse’s claims to any assets titled in the other spouse’s name, and to any enhancement in value from assets titled in the other spouse’s name acquired during the marriage.
The parties’ prenuptial agreement was executed in 1986. Both parties had the advice of separate counsel, and multiple drafts of the agreement were exchanged prior to its execution. In the executed agreement, the wife waived and released any potential claim to alimony of any kind. The agreement also contained broad language of waiver and release as to assets, whereby the wife ostensibly waived and released any claim to assets titled solely in the husband’s name that were acquired during the marriage. The parties filed for dissolution of marriage in 2008, and the trial court found that the prenuptial agreement was valid.
The Fourth DCA analyzed the wife’s challenge to the prenuptial agreement under Casto v. Casto, 508 So.2d 330, 333 (Fla. 1987). As to the first basis for challenge under Casto, the Fourth DCA affirmed the trial court’s conclusion that the wife failed to establish that the agreement was invalid for fraud or misrepresentation. Hahamovitch v. Hahamovitch, 133 So. 3d 1008, 1011 (Fla. 4th DCA 2014). As to the second basis, the Fourth DCA also concluded that the agreement was fair at the time it was entered. The Fourth DCA also interpreted the language of the prenuptial agreement as “broad enough to waive the wife’s right to any asset titled in the husband’s name that was acquired or enhanced during the marriage with marital labor or earnings.” Id. at 1013. However, the Fourth DCA certified conflict with decisions of the Second DCA and Third DCA on the issue due to case law from those courts that construed substantially similar title provisions in prenuptial agreements as insufficient to waive a spouse’s claim to the enhancement in value of the other spouse’s non-marital property that resulted from marital earnings. Id. at 1016.
The Florida Supreme Court approved the Fourth DCA’s decision. The Florida Supreme Court rejected the wife’s argument that the absence of any reference in the prenuptial agreement to enhancement in value of nonmarital property attributable to marital labor or funds made the enhanced value subject to equitable distribution. The Florida Supreme Court also rejected the wife’s argument that the lack of a provision that the husband’s earnings would be his separate property meant they were not protected assets. The Florida Supreme Court concluded that the plain meaning of the broad language of waiver and release was sufficient for the wife to have waived any claim to property titled in the husband’s name, or enhancement in value of such property. The Florida Supreme Court also rejected the reasoning expressed in contrary cases from the Second DCA and Third DCA as inconsistent with the plain language of the prenuptial agreement.
* THE DECISION IS NOT FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE A REHEARING MOTION, AND IF FILED, DETERMINED. *