IN RE: LASHKEJARIV LASHKEJARI
Is the award of attorneys’ fees a valid contract in terms a prenuptial agreement?
The Florida Supreme Court, in the matter of Casto V Casto determined that while the state has an interest in promoting marriage, and thus cannot support any agreement that contravenes this position, the portion of a prenuptial agreement dealing with attorneys’ fees does not in and of itself promote the dissolution of marriage.
In the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling in this matter, the justices made a point of distinguishing between a prenuptial agreement and other kinds of contracts. Twice in its written opinion it noted that most contracts originate at “arm’s length<” namely that there is no, or at least little, emotion in drawing up an agreement, this is not the case with a prenuptial agreement. The court might not step in when it comes to division of assets, disclosure of incomes, unless certain proofs are met. It is believed that, unless shown to be otherwise, that the parties acted in good faith, made full disclosure, entered willingly into the agreement.
The closeness of the parties does not come into play when it comes to agreeing to terms about awards of attorneys’ fees, as the court has held that parties aren’t laying the groundwork for intentionally ending the relationship, but setting up ground rules “just in case.” Therefore the attorneys’ fees provision assumes that the parties are acting rationally, having both consulting with counsel, and voluntarily consenting to terms.
While Mrs. Lashkejari contested the terms of the prenuptial agreement when she sought to end the marriage, and was successful in proving the unfairness of the terms, she, according to the fees provision, being the prevailing party, was awarded fees, but so was her husband. Her protestation that Mr. Laskejari was better situated financially to handle the fees was disregarded as the court held that the contract fulfilled all the necessary obligations of a valid contract.
The prevailing party, Mrs. Lashkejari, was ordered to pay the fees.