Pre-Nuptial Agreement- Law Update

Will a prenuptial agreement protect me from the increase in value of my home?

In the case of Heiny v. Heiny, 113 So.3d 897 (Fla. 2d DCA 2013) the Husband is a pool contractor, and the Wife is an accountant. During the marriage, they worked together in the Husband’s pool construction business.

Wife had a home before she married her husband. The value of her home increased during the marriage because of improvements and upgrades. During the divorce husband claimed he was entitled to one-half of the appreciated value of wife’s pre-marital home as a result of the improvements and upgrades. Husband and Wife signed a pre-nup before they got married that provides Husband would receive one-half of the principal payments and one-half of capital improvements made during the marriage.

In the final judgment of dissolution, the trial court assigned the Wife’s premarital home an equity value of $285,000 at the time of the marriage in 1996. The trial court found that the home’s equity value had appreciated in the amount of $272,813, giving it an equity value of $557,813 at the time of the divorce.

The trial court then found that one half of those capital improvements would be $136,406.50, and award the Husband that amount in the equitable distribution calculations. The premarital home was awarded to the Wife as a non-marital asset. Both the Husband and the Wife appealed.

In her cross-appeal, the Wife argued that the trial court made three errors in the equitable distribution plan, including the calculated amount of the Husband’s interest in her premarital home. The District Court agreed and reversed. The District Court stated:

  1. “We conclude that the trial court erred in interpreting the antenuptial agreement to provide that the husband is entitled to half of the appreciated value of the property resulting from capital improvements.”
  1. “The plain language of the agreement clearly limits the husband’s interest in the wife’s premarital home to one-half of principal payments and one-half of capital improvements made by the parties during the marriage.”
  1. “The trial court’s calculation erroneously took into consideration the appreciation of the premarital home, which was not contemplated by the terms of the antenuptial agreement.”
  1. “The husband’s benefit regarding the wife’s premarital home was limited to one-half of the cost of the improvements and one-half of the amount of the principal payments made during the marriage. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court’s finding that the husband was entitled to one-half of the appreciated value of the wife’s home.”
Make sure that your pre-nup is air tight and says exactly what you intend it to say!