In May 2019, a Florida appeals judge decided that the omission of the letter "a" on a legal document should cost one divorce petitioner $1,500,000.
A couple signed a prenuptial agreement before their 2006 marriage. In that legal document, it detailed how the wife would receive a specific amount of alimony proportionate to the length of her marriage if she and her husband ever divorced.
The prenup stated that the husband would have to pay the wife a certain amount of money for every year they'd been married "at the time a petition for Dissolution of Marriage is filed".
In 2013, the wife filed for a dissolution of marriage. She withdrew that months later though. She then resubmitted it in 2016. By then they had been married 10 years.
When it came time to discuss alimony, the husband's attorney found a loophole in the way that the original prenup was written. The use of "a" in front of "Petition for Dissolution of Marriage" could cause the wife to receive $2.7 instead of $4.2 million in spousal support if a judge were to consider the first filing in 2013 as a valid attempt to end their union.
The family court judge who originally presided over the divorce case decided that the use of "a" instead of "the" was a mere oversight. They determined that 2016 should stand as the year of the dissolution. The husband appealed the case to the Second District Court of Appeal.
Ultimately the District Court judge who the case was assigned to decided that the use of the letter "a" instead of "the" in the contract was "at the heart of the problem".
They noted that, in reviewing contracts, they're taught to go with the initial event, especially if a certain outcome is conditioned upon who makes the first move in a particular situation. They ultimately decided that the alimony award would be based off the 2013 dissolution date.
If there's one lesson that can be learned from this Florida case, it's that prenuptial agreements should never be entered into on the fly. This is especially the case if a significant amount of alimony is at stake.
There are various types of spousal support that individuals may qualify for in Florida. An alimony attorney can help you understand the different types and your prospects for receiving it here in Fort Myers.