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What it Means for Your Florida Divorce Case if There is Ambiguity in Your Marital Settlement Agreement

When you are dealing with a dispute in relation to how your marital settlement agreement should be carried out, the courts will enforce the agreement in a manner similar to any other kind of contract dispute. What this means is that if the agreement is clear and unambiguous on its face the court will look only at the agreement document itself to determine what the outcome should be. If, however, the court decides that the document contains ambiguity, then that ambiguity allows the spouses to introduce external evidence to prove the true meaning of the provision in dispute. Achieving success, then, in your marital settlement agreement dispute begins with successfully persuading the court that your agreement is, or is not, ambiguous. When it comes these and other types of marital settlement agreement enforcement disputes, it is worthwhile to have the advice and advocacy of a skilled South Florida family law attorney.

An example of this type of dispute regarding a marital settlement agreement and its potential ambiguity was the case of M.F. and R.F. M.F. and R.F. worked out a marital settlement agreement as part of their divorce. For couples who are getting closer to the age of retirement, one of the most important pieces within the asset division puzzle may be the distribution of retirement accounts. In M.F. and R.F.’s case, the settlement agreement dealt with the husband’s pension, stating that the wife was entitled to 50% of the marital portion of the husband’s Florida Retirement System plan through his employer, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. The agreement further declared that, outside this FRS plan, each spouse would keep any IRAs or 401K plans in their names.

On the surface, this might sound straightforward enough. However, in this couple’s case, there was a complication. The husband had originally worked for a city police department that had eventually been absorbed by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. At the time of the absorption, the couple cashed out the husband’s pension that he had with the city. Later on, during the marriage, the couple purchased “enhancements” to the husband’s Florida Retirement System plan, which meant that they put extra money into the pension in order to realize a greater benefit when the husband retired. They used marital funds to purchase this enhancement.

That enhancement was the sticking point. The wife argued that the entirety of the FRS pension was marital and subject to the 50% distribution provision in the settlement agreement. The husband argued that the language in the settlement agreement excluded the enhancement.

The appeals court concluded that the language in the agreement was not clear. The FRS plan division section could reasonably be read more than one way. Due to that ambiguity, the dispute required a hearing, with each spouse having the opportunity to present outside evidence to support his/her argument. As the trial court had ruled in favor of the wife based upon the agreement document alone, this opportunity to bring in external evidence was a win for the husband.

Whether you are contesting an issue related to alimony, child support a marital settlement agreement provision or something else, Miami family law attorney Sara Saba is here to help. Attorney Saba has been providing effective representation for her clients for more than 13 years. Our team is dedicated solely to meeting your family law needs. Contact us online or by calling (305) 450-8009 to schedule your consultation. Hablamos Español.

More blog posts:

How Your Retirement May Impact Your Florida Alimony Obligation, Miami Divorce Lawyer Blog, Aug. 31, 2018

When Can an Equitable Distribution Be an Unequal Distribution of Marital Assets in a Florida Divorce?, Miami Divorce Lawyer Blog, Aug. 30, 2018