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Before You Sign A Marital Settlement Agreement, Make Sure You Have All The Facts


Sometimes long marriages unravel slowly, such that, by the time the parties file for divorce, they have been living separately for years.  In cases like these, they may have worked out a new normal where each spouse lives on his or her own income or where the wealthier spouse pays the financially disadvantaged spouse an annuity or funds certain expenses for the financially disadvantaged spouse.  In cases like these, the divorce just makes official what the parties have already been doing for years.  If the spouses have been keeping secrets from each other about their finances, though, that must all come out in the wash when they get divorced.  Financial disclosures are a necessary part of even the simplest divorce case, even the divorce cases where the parties were only married a short time and did not own property together.  If you think that your spouse is not being truthful in their financial disclosures, the time to speak up is before your divorce is finalized, not after.  It is easiest to do this with the help of a Boca Raton property division lawyer.

Ex-Wife Claims That She Signed Marital Settlement Agreement Under Duress

Stella and Alfonso married in 1982; they filed for divorce for the first time in December 2007.  Alfonso operated many businesses, mostly related to aviation, and Stella owned a beauty supply business.   They spent the first half of 2008 meeting with their respective lawyers and accountants in an attempt to finalize a marital settlement agreement (MSA), although they were both open to the idea of reconciliation.  In March, Alfonso proposed a marital settlement agreement, which would give Stella about $6.8 million and would not entitle her to alimony, but Stella’s accountant cautioned her against signing it, since Alfonso had not yet provided all the documents Stella’s accountant had requested.  Stella said that she was eager to get the MSA over with, so she signed it in its current form.  She and Alfonso reconciled soon afterward, with the understanding that, if they later divorced, they would abide by the terms of the MSA.

The parties filed for divorce again in 2011.  This time, Stella asked the court to set aside the MSA, alleging that she had signed it due to fraud and duress.  She had since found out that Alfonso’s net worth was about $19 million, so $6.8 million would only be about a third of the marital estate.  She claimed that he had misled her, saying that his businesses were nearly financial insolvency, but that she had begun to suspect that he was not being truthful when she saw how much money he spent on personal expenses.  The court refused to set aside the MSA; it reasoned that Stella should have done her due diligence in investigating Alfonso’s finances, when she had the chance to do it.

Contact Schwartz | White About Divorce After an Unofficial Separation

A South Florida divorce lawyer can help you ask all the financial questions during your divorce that you avoided asking during your marriage.  Contact Schwartz | White in Boca Raton, Florida about your case.



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