Lashkajani v Lashkajani: Attorneys Fees in Prenuptial Agreements
Throughout the over 50 years in which prenuptial agreements have grown in popularity in Florida and across the country, courts have been asked to rule on a wide variety of cases involving the validity of certain provisions in the agreements. In fact, societal changes alone from the early 1970s to today have also had a tremendous impact on how prenuptial agreements are viewed.
Prior to the 1970s, many perceived these agreements as being a detriment to marriage. Through the years, however, prenuptial’s have become not only more common and practical, but the courts have ruled to ensure they do not take unfair advantage of one party or another. One such case is that of Lashkajani vs Lashkajani. The case involves attorneys’ fees in prenuptial agreements and touches on several important issues.
In 1989, the Florida couple secured separate attorneys in negotiating a prenuptial agreement. After an agreement was executed, they married. After about ten years of marriage and the birth of three children, Mrs. Lashkajani filed for divorce in 2000. She said not only was the prenuptial agreement unfair, but she was coerced into signing it. The circuit court, however, found that the husband’s financial disclosures were “full and frank” and the wife was not fairly untreated in the agreement. The prenuptial agreement was ruled valid when the question of lawyers’ fees came into play. Both parties wanted their attorney’s fees paid by the other party. The husband based his request on the principle of being the prevailing party in the case, which was noted in the agreement. The wife sought her attorney’s fees because her actions were taken in “good faith and with a colorable legal and factual basis.” She maintained her actions were not frivolous, and she should be compensated.
The court ruled both parties attorneys should be paid, but for different reasons.
The husband’s fee was judged payable based on the fact that he prevailed in the case. She was awarded fees based on the fact that at the time she filed the case, their divorce had not been adjudicated yet. This, in essence, meant that they were still husband and wife, and as such, each was responsible for spousal support.
The court noted that “it is well settled in Florida that a spouse’s obligation to provide spousal support during the marriage, including the responsibility for attorney’s fees and costs, may not be contracted away by a prenuptial agreement.”
In addition, “prevailing party clauses in prenuptial agreements can be distinguished from provisions regarding pre-dissolution support.”
The point is that prenuptial agreements can be complex, and court decisions can evolve.
If you are considering marriage, we ask that you seriously consider a prenuptial agreement. Reach out to us for assistance.
If you have questions about a prenup agreement or a postnup agreement or require legal assistance in other areas of Family Law you may always contact Damien McKinney of The McKinney Law Group to discuss your case further. He can be reached by phone at 813-428-3400 or by e-mail at [email protected].
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