Court Discusses Enforcing an Oral Marital Settlement Agreement in Florida

Divorce cases are often contentious, with a primary source of disagreement, usually being how assets and liabilities should be divided. While typically, court intervention is required to resolve such matters, couples are free to come to an agreement independently. In many instances, such agreements will be developed during the course of proceedings and will be presented to the court for approval before they have been reduced to writing. Oral agreements may be enforced but only under certain circumstances, as illustrated in a recent Florida ruling. If you are considering filing for divorce, it is in your best interest to speak to a capable Florida divorce attorney to determine what actions you can take to protect your interests.

The Divorce Proceedings

It is reported that the husband and the wife were engaged in divorce proceedings. The wife filed a motion for temporary relief, and during the hearing on the matter, her attorney requested a brief recess, indicating that the parties had been discussing the possibility of entering into a global settlement agreement. Approximately one hour later, the parties returned and indicated a settlement had been reached.

Allegedly, a few of the terms of the agreement were read into the record while other issues were negotiated before the court. The court spoke to each party independently, asking if they agreed to the terms of the settlement as discussed and whether their agreement was voluntary. The wife later filed a motion to enforce the oral settlement agreement, while the husband filed a motion to set it aside. The court granted the wife’s motion and denied the husband’s, after which the husband appealed.

Enforcing an Oral Marital Settlement Agreement

Under Florida law, for an oral marital settlement agreement to be enforceable and valid, the trial judge approving the agreement must engage in a two-part analysis. First, the judge must question each party to determine whether their consent to the terms of the agreement is unequivocal and clear. Second, the trial judge must verify that each party was afforded the opportunity to discuss the agreement with his or her attorney and completely understands the terms of the agreement.

In the subject case, the appellate court noted that while the trial court obtained affirmation from the parties that their assent to the agreement was clear and unequivocal, it did not perform the second part of the inquiry. In other words, it did not affirm that each party either consulted with his or her attorney or had the opportunity to do so. Thus, the court found that the oral marital settlement agreement was unenforceable, vacating the trial court ruling.

Meet with a Knowledgeable Florida Divorce Attorney

It is prudent for anyone involved in a divorce action to reduce agreements to writing, to increase the likelihood they will be enforced. If you intend to end your marriage, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible to assess your options. The knowledgeable divorce attorneys of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, P.A. can assist you in fighting for a fair outcome, and if you hire us, we will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can contact us at 800-283-7442 or through the form online to schedule a conference.

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