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What to Do When Your Ex-Spouse Asserts the Existence of an Oral Contract as Part of Your Florida Divorce Case

One of the most dramatically altered areas of family law in Florida in the last few years is the area related to same-sex committed relationships. Of course, same-sex couples only obtained the right to marry in Florida with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling striking down same-sex marriage bans as unconstitutional. Before that time, these couples’ relationships had no recognition in Florida. Since that time, same-sex couples have been able both to marry and divorce in the Sunshine State. One thing that is true, whether you’re in an opposite- or same-sex relationship, is that if your non-spouse partner makes a promise to support you it helps to get it in writing. A knowledgeable Miami divorce attorney can help you as you address these and other family law issues.

The divorce of L.M. and P.C. was an example of a dispute over an alleged oral contract. The women lived together for a period of years before they married. Over the course of the relationship, each of the women executed estate planning documents that named the other as the beneficiary of her assets. According to P.C., though, the two partners generally kept their assets separate. While L.M. allegedly opened joint accounts, P.C. asserted that she was unaware of these accounts prior to the divorce. P.C.’s name was added to the deed and the mortgage on L.M.’s home, but that was done because the couple needed P.C.’s high credit score to get a better rate in refinancing the mortgage on that home.

The main point of contention in the women’s divorce was P.C.’s retirement. In the litigation, L.M. asked for one-half of P.C.’s pre-marital retirement earnings. L.M.’s arguments were that (contrary to P.C.’s assertion) they did pool their assets and that P.C. had promised that the couple would use her retirement “to fund their golden years.”

P.C. denied those statements and the court concluded that P.C. was more credible, ruling in her favor. L.M. appealed, but to no avail. L.M.’s argument essentially asserted that the women had an oral contract regarding P.C.’s retirement account. The problem with that argument is the existence of an oral contract can be difficult to prove. Whereas a written contract involves a tangible piece of paper, the existence of an oral contract (or lack thereof) can often come down to a case of “she said-she said.” In those cases, the law gives trial courts broad leeway to made determinations about the credibility of witnesses, with the persuasiveness of the witness testimony often determining which spouse wins and which one loses an oral contract case like this.

Certainly, same-sex couples in Florida were impaired by this state law’s lack of marriage equality prior to 2015. However, the case of these two women highlights just how important it is to get promises put down in writing. Whether married or merely cohabitating, a couple can execute a contract regarding one’s promise to support the other. They can create such a contract at the time the promise is made or, in a situation where they eventually marry (as L.M and P.C. did), they also could have executed a prenuptial agreement. There are many options, but the key is to make sure you have some written documentation of your collective intentions.

For skillful advice and advocacy in your divorce case,. Miami family law attorney Sara Saba is ready to help, having provided her clients reliable representation since 2004. 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:

Former ‘The Girls Next Door’ Star Holly Madison to Divorce; Couple Had a Prenuptial Agreement that Included a Provision About Alimony, Miami Divorce Lawyer Blog, Oct. 15, 2018

Ensuring that You Get the Benefit of the Agreement for Which You Bargained in Your Florida Prenuptial Agreement, Miami Divorce Lawyer Blog, July 1, 2018