The Florida Supreme Court has accepted review of a Fourth District Court of Appeal decision which certified the following question of great public importance:

Where a prenuptial agreement provides that neither spouse will ever claim any interest in the other’s property, states that each spouse shall be the sole owner of property purchased or acquired in his or her name, and contains language purporting to waive and release all rights and claims that a spouse may be entitled to as a result of the marriage, do such provisions serve to waive a spouse’s right to any share of assets titled in the other spouse’s name, even if those assets were acquired during the marriage due to parties’ marital efforts or appreciated in value during the marriage due to the parties’ marital efforts?

See Hahamovitch v. Hahamovitch, No. SC14-277. To read the Fourth District’s slip opinion click here (reported at 133 So. 3d 1008).

This case arises from a prenuptial agreement between spouses, Dianne and Harry Hahamovitch. The issue is whether the provisions of the prenuptial agreement are broad enough to waive the wife’s right to any asset titled in the husband’s name that was acquired or enhanced during the marriage with marital labor or earnings.

Several of the districts courts are split on the issue of whether a broad provision is a waiver of rights. The Third District has held that a spouse does not waive his/her right to seek equitable distribution of the enhanced value of non-marital property where the parties’ prenuptial agreement is silent on the issue of enhancement or appreciation of the parties’ non-martial property. The Second District has held that if a prenuptial agreement does not specifically designate a spouse’s earnings as separate property, the assets acquired with those earnings will be treated as marital. The Second District has further held that a simple waiver of appreciation or increase in value waives only passive appreciation, not active appreciation attributable to marital labor and funds. The Fifth District, however, upheld a trial court’s reliance on a prenuptial agreement to deny a former wife of any equitable distribution of properties owned by the husband before the marriage, even though they appreciated in value due to investment of marital labor and income.

The Fourth District held that under the plain language of the prenuptial agreement at issue, the wife waived and released claims to property or assets owned by the husband at the time of the agreement, or acquired in his own name thereafter, including any enhancement in the value of such property. The language of the agreement was broad enough to waive the wife’s right to any asset title in the husband’s name that was acquired during the marriage or that appreciated in value due to martial income or efforts during the marriage. In so doing, the Fourth District certified a conflict with the Second and Third Districts and certified the above question to the Florida Supreme Court.

This article will be update once the Court issues its decision. Oral argument was held on March 5, 2015.

Image Courtesy of Flickr by Daniel Oines (no changes).