Tag: Understanding marital agreements

Against All Odds: Voiding Prenups

What do prenups, and singer Phil Collins have in common? We will soon find out. Phil may be a witness in a divorce trial where Phil’s ex-wife is testing the validity of an agreement she signed with her new husband.

As the Miami Herald reports, the five-day trial on the validity of an agreement is scheduled to start April 24. The trial is a part of Phil Collins’ ex-wife, Orianne Mejjati’s, current divorce from Miami developer Charles Fouad Mejjati.

This part of the trial is designed only to validate, or declare null and void, a prenup or postnup agreement that Orianne and Charles signed in May 2015 – about the time Collins moved to be near Orianne.

Under the agreement in question, Orianne would be forced to turn over her $10 million Miami Beach mansion to Charles, in addition to giving him half the value of her property near Geneva, Switzerland. It has been on the market for $62 million.

Easy Lover: Prenups and Postnups

I’ve written about prenups and postnups in the past. Prenuptial agreements, or “prenups,” are contracts entered into before marriage that outline the division of assets in case of divorce or death. Postnuptial agreements are contracts entered into after the marriage.

Both prenups and postnups help try to resolve things like alimony, ownership of businesses, title of properties, and even each spouse’s financial responsibilities during the marriage.

True Colors: Voiding Agreements

Because of Florida’s policy of enforcing agreements, prenups and postnups can be difficult to void – but not impossible. Florida has both case law and a statute to help lawyers, judges and the parties determine if a prenuptial agreement, for example, is enforceable.

In Florida, to test the validity of a prenuptial agreement, courts must consider things such as fraud, duress, coercion, in addition to the unfairness of the agreement, and whether there was any financial disclosure.

Under Florida’s Uniform Premarital Agreement Act, a prenup may not be enforceable if a party can prove, in part, that it was not signed voluntarily; or was the product of fraud, duress, coercion, or overreaching; or it was unconscionable.

Some of these defenses may also require a party to show they were not given a fair and reasonable disclosure of property, and did not voluntarily and expressly waive that right, and did not have adequate knowledge of the property or financial obligations of the other party.

That’s Just the Way It Is

In Orianne’s case, she stands to lose a large portion of her fortune, so Phil Collins has been cooperating with the court system. He was grilled by lawyers for several hours in January on what he knew about Orianne’s mental state when she signed the post-nuptial agreement.

According to media reports, Orianne now believes her condition at the time she signed the agreement made her legally incompetent to sign anything and says she was ‘coerced’ and ‘bullied.’ Charles’ side claims Orianne was properly represented by a lawyer, and he has been playing hard ball.

‘The husband threatened that he would disclose and make public allegations about the wife,’ Orianne’s original divorce petition reads.

‘That would cause the wife great personal, professional and social embarrassment, humiliation and upset and would, the husband threatened, also result in the wife losing custody of her child.’

In 2015, Phil Collins bought Jennifer Lopez’s old house for $33 million. Collins then paid Mejjati, a builder by trade, to make substantial alterations to the property where Lopez broke up with longtime love Ben Affleck in 2004. Within months, Orianne had left her husband, and moved in with Collins.

The Miami Herald article is here.


Understanding Your Settlement Agreement

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Agreements on Wednesday, March 5, 2014.

You want to understand your property division, but it sounds like Shakespeare wrote it: “Witnesseth that whereas the aforementioned, hereinafter referred to as party of the second part, hereby stipulates betwixt . . .” How do you make sense of that?

You could ask your lawyer to explain what this legal mumbo jumbo means again, but you probably don’t want to add to your attorneys’ bill. On the other hand, you also don’t want to violate the agreement, and most importantly, you want this thing to work. What to do.

Below are a few tips to help you to understand your new marital settlement agreement:

– Calendar the exchange days and times into your iPhone as far out as possible.

– Calendar any “notify by” dates for vacations and special events.

– For the kids, draw a color-coded calendar of timesharing exchanges so they will know where they’ll be. It helps instill confidence.

– List on a piece of paper what needs to be divided and when.

– Notify your H.R. department about your divorce.

– Notify cable T.V., cellular telephone and other accounts managers to change accounts.

– Calendar when support payments are due.

– List the amount of child support and alimony to be paid.

– List your children’s extra-curricular expenses and uncovered expenses and remember what percentage each parent is responsible for.

Marital settlement agreements, even when written clearly, are legal contracts. They can be long and complex. Even lawyers have to continually educate themselves to stay on top of this ever changing area of law.

Once the agreement is signed, you should be finished, but not always. These tips should help, but if you find yourself back in court, you will at least have a handle on the agreement.

It is not uncommon for me to be brought into a case to review someone’s proposed marital settlement agreement before they sign it. So, if all else fails, call a lawyer for help.