You may say WTF and this is a case that highlights why words, no matter how small, mean so much in the law. Clients sometimes ask why prenuptial agreements cost so much. Well, here is a case that highlights the pitfalls of drafting these very dangerous documents.
In the recent case of Famigilo v. Famiglio, 2019 in the Second District Court of Appeals (binding on Courts from Crystal River to Marco Island), the Court considered that smallest of all vowels “a” vs. “the.” Seems of little consequence right! Well what if the difference between these two very small words would eventually cost you $2,400,000! Yes, that’s right, I said $2,400,000!
In this case, the parties entered into a prenuptial agreement which said that any lump sum alimony benefits the Wife was to receive would be based on the number of years they lived together “at the time a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is filed.” This is a very common concept in prenuptial agreements and not an isolated event!
Here the Wife initially filed for her divorce in 2013, it was never served on Husband and it was dismissed. In 2016 the Wife then filed a Petition for Dissolution (for divorce) and this resulted in their divorce being finalized. During the period from the Wife’s initial filing and the Wife’s second and final filing, the increase in what the Wife would receive had increased $1,500,000. So, the Appellate Court had the issue of whether her 2013 filing was the filing of “a” Petition for Dissolution or was her second filing in 2016 was the filing of “a” Petition. The Court goes through a lengthy analysis of the use of the word “a” and came to the conclusion that her filing in 2013 was a filing, thus she was entitled to $1,500,000 less than what she would have received had her 2013 filing controlled! Had her attorneys said that she was entitled to receive an amount certain upon the filing of “the” Petition that results in their divorce, she would have received $1,500,000 more than she did!
Now when you ask your attorney why it costs to obtain a prenuptial agreement, it may make absolute sense that protecting you from a $1,500,000 mistake is well worth it!