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The Importance of Strong Legal Counsel in Your Florida Divorce Case, Especially When There’s a Possible Language Issue

There is often much that anyone can learn from the rulings courts make. A recent decision handed down by a Florida appeals court in Miami provides two very important reminders for anyone going through the divorce process.. First and foremost, it is always a good idea to ensure that you have the representation of a knowledgeable Florida family law attorney for any divorce-related legal matter. That is especially true if there is a potential language barrier issue. Florida and the Florida courts remain English-dominant, and you want to ensure that you do not lose out on important rights or legal options because of a barrier due to English being something other than your first language.

The spouses involved in the case, Gerardo and Aura, began divorce proceedings in 2016. At the time, the couple had been married for 19 years. Each spouse decided to navigate the legal system without the representation of an attorney. The husband obtained the necessary paperwork, and the couple, with the help of a private notary, filled out the forms. The forms, along with a marital settlement agreement, stated that neither spouse would receive alimony. According to the notary, the wife did not speak English well, and she (the notary) translated much of the paperwork’s English into Spanish to aid understanding.

At the court clerk’s office, the wife allegedly objected to the “no alimony” provision, and the clerk made a note of it. Unfortunately for the wife, the paperwork that said “no alimony” got filed, and the document that supposedly showed her objection did not.

This left the wife attempting to set aside the settlement agreement and revive her case for alimony. The trial judge ruled for the wife, but the appeals court reversed that decision. In order to get your marital settlement agreement set aside, you have a substantial legal hill to climb, which is one reason why it is so important to “get it right the first time” when it comes to your marital settlement agreement.

To get your settlement agreement thrown out, you need to prove several things to the court. You have to demonstrate that you signed the agreement due to fraud, duress, deceit, coercion, misrepresentation, or overreaching. Even after you show that, you also have to prove “that the agreement makes an unfair or unreasonable provision for that spouse, given the circumstances of the parties.” In other words, you have to establish that there was a problem with the voluntariness of your signature, and you also have to show that there was a problem with the fundamental fairness of the agreement’s terms.

Although the wife may potentially have failed to understand the agreement on a full and complete level due to the language barrier, that was not fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, duress, or coercion by itself. The evidence the wife offered also lacked the sort of financial information a court would need to rule that the settlement agreement was unfair to her. Florida courts have long stated that the “fact that one party to the agreement apparently made a bad bargain is not a sufficient ground, by itself, to vacate or modify a settlement agreement.”

In Aura’s case, it was possible that she, in fact, made a very bad bargain. Florida law defines marriages that last 17 years or more as long-term marriages. The law also says that, if a spouse is entitled to alimony, there is a legal presumption that she should receive permanent alimony. All of that would be lost to Aura if the courts decided that Aura’s marital settlement agreement was enforceable as written.

For the diligent and helpful advice and representation you need as you attempt to navigate the divorce process, rely upon skilled Miami divorce attorney Sara Saba, who has been providing reliable advice and strong advocacy to her clients for more than 13 years. Our team is dedicated to meeting your family law needs. Contact us online or by calling (305) 450-8009 to schedule your consultation. Hablamos Español.

More blog posts:

New Law Gives Divorcing Spouses More Options in Florida, Miami Divorce Lawyer Blog, March 29, 2018

Music Star Mary J. Blige’s Husband is Back in Court, Seeking an Increase in Alimony, Miami Divorce Lawyer Blog, Feb. 23, 2018