A real estate businessman elected, before marrying his wife, to enter into an antenuptial agreement with her. However, since he and his wife did not conduct themselves during the marriage in a manner consistent with the terms contained in the agreement, two Florida courts concluded that they abandoned the agreement, meaning that the wife was entitled to alimony and equitable distribution of the couple’s $8.4 million in marital property.
Peter and Sheila Geraci were married in 1982, and their marriage lasted nearly 30 years. Prior to marrying his wife in 1982, the husband had amassed a considerable amount of wealth in the real estate business in the Tampa area. Before the wedding, the husband asked the wife to sign an antenuptial agreement, which she did. The agreement stated that, in the event that the marriage ended in divorce, the wife gave up all her rights to alimony and most of her equitable distribution rights, too.
When the couple’s marriage ended, they went to court, where the centerpiece of the legal battle was the enforcement of the antenuptial agreement. To create a successful antenuptial agreement, you need to do more than just put your objectives in writing. You also need to conduct yourself and your business during the marriage in a manner that is consistent with the terms set out in that “prenup.”
This was the problem the husband had in the Geraci case. After hearing extensive arguments and voluminous evidence, the trial court determined that the couple “abandoned or rescinded the antenuptial agreement by mutual consent,” a ruling the 2d District Court of Appeal affirmed on appeal. Even though the couple never put anything on paper indicating an intent to withdraw the agreement, their conduct throughout the marriage created a de facto abandonment of the agreement, according to the ruling of the trial judge.
Typically, abandonment by conduct involves either one spouse engaging in an act that runs contrary to the agreement and the second spouse assenting to that action, or both spouses collectively taking an action inconsistent with the agreement. This can include pooling assets that the agreement stated would remain separate, or taking assets that the agreement dictated would be joint property and titling them in the name of one spouse alone.
One “saving grace” for the husband was that, although his conduct destroyed his antenuptial agreement, he successfully managed to keep most of his separate property separate and refrain from actions, such as commingling assets, that would have converted it into marital property. Of the husband’s nearly $29 million in real estate assets, he successfully kept $20 million separate, with only $8.4 million subject to equitable distribution. The court equally divided the $8.4 million in real estate and awarded the wife $6,900 per month in alimony.
Entering into marriage with substantial previously accumulated wealth can involve many important considerations, including antenuptial agreements. Whether or not you executed an antenuptial agreement, the divorce attorneys at Stok Folk + Kon can help you with your case. Our attorneys are ready to advise you and advocate for you to ensure you get all of the assets you deserve under the law.
Contact us online or by calling (305) 935-4440 to schedule your consultation.
More blog posts:
Contract Addendum Establishes Agreement as Unambiguous, Defeats Need for Extrinsic Evidence in Real Estate Dispute, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, Dec. 5, 2014
Staffing Firm’s Motion to Dismiss Did Not Create Waiver of Right to Compel Arbitration of Contract Dispute with Client, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, Oct. 16, 2014