One of the significant, most noted and referred to legal cases involving core premises of prenup and postnup agreements is Florida case involving Casto vs Casto.
The couple first married in 1964 and had their marriage dissolved in 1966.
After the couple remarried in 1967, the husband began successfully investing in shopping centers while the wife was not employed outside the home.
Ten years later, in 1977, the pair signed a postnuptial agreement that provided that the wife could keep their Fort Lauderdale home with the husband making mortgage payments for a year, along with some miscellaneous benefits and a one-time payment of $100,000. There were no children, and the two agreed there would be no further disbursements of payments or property. They agreed any individually held assets would remain that way, and each would pay their own attorney fees in any dissolution.
About a year after the execution of the postnuptial agreement, the husband petitioned for dissolution.
The wife claimed the prenup agreement was invalid because she was forced to sign it under duress, and she was not familiar with her husband’s assets and income at the time of the signing of the agreement. She now wanted another lump sum payment and permanent alimony.
The courts ruled that she must have knowledge of the dissolution process, having been married three times prior to her two marriages to Mr. Casto. It was further determined she at least had general knowledge of her husband’s assets, having provided a list at the time the postnuptial was executed. She sought the advice of two attorneys, the first of whom advised her not to sign the agreement and the second of whom only consulted on the form and not the substance of the agreement. The wife further claimed she was never told the value of her husband’s assets and was deeply depressed at the signing, feeling it was under duress.
The agreement was ruled invalid, and the wife was awarded $1.5 million in alimony payments over the next five years.
The courts said they set aside the original settlement because the wife was not properly advised of the value of the pertinent assets and questioned the competency of her legal representation.
Ultimately, the courts agreed there are two situations in which a postnuptial agreement may be challenged and vacated. The first being that if the agreement was reached based on fraud, duress, or deceit. The second reason an agreement may be invalid is if it is unreasonably unfair based on the party’s situations and their financial knowledge of the situation.
While competency of legal representation was brought up, the court ruled the real reason the settlement was vacated was based more on the profound unfairness of the agreement, especially in regard to the wife’s actual financial knowledge of the situation.
When crafting a prenup or postnup agreement, it is absolutely essential that you have legal representation from an attorney experienced in these agreements. We encourage you to contact us to assure that your agreement is enforceable.
If you have questions about a prenup agreement or a postnup agreement or require legal assistance in other areas of Family Law such as high asset divorce 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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