Collaborative Family Law: Florida Favors Settlement Agreements

2 children in white robe sitting on yellow floor. Photo by Macau Photo Agency (Unsplash)

Florida favors settlement agreements of family law disputes. Parents may agree to take on obligations based on future events. That’s true even if a court otherwise couldn’t impose those obligations. This power parents have in collaborative divorce to make agreements makes collaborative special.

Purpose of Florida’s Divorce Statute Includes Promoting Settlement

Since July 1, 1971, the purposes of the dissolution of marriage statute haven’t changed. For 50 years, the purposes of Florida’s divorce statute have been:

(a) To preserve the integrity of marriage and to safeguard meaningful family relationships;

(b) To promote the amicable settlement of disputes that arise between parties to a marriage; and

(c) To mitigate the potential harm to the spouses and their children caused by the process of legal dissolution of marriage.

See 61.001(2), Florida Statutes.  

Florida Favors Settlement

Florida law highly favors settlement agreements. Griffith v. Griffith, 860 So. 2d 1069, 1073 (Fla. 1st DCA 2003)Chovan v. Chovan, 90 So. 3d 898, 900-01 (Fla. 4th DCA 2012).

Separation agreements executed by husband and wife prior to divorce usually provide for payment to the wife of support or alimony; for support and custody of children; and for settlement of property rights existing between the parties. When such agreements are fairly entered into and are not tainted by fraud, overreaching or concealment, they will be respected by the courts.

* * *

Provisions of a separation agreement or final decree relating to the support, care and custody of children are always subject to review and approval by the court, the guiding star being the best interest and welfare of the children.

Sedell v. Sedell, 100 So. 2d 639, 642 (Fla. 1st DCA 1958).

Parents May Agree to Obligations a Court Could Not Otherwise Order

Marital settlement agreements are construed the same as any other contract. Taylor v. Lutz, 134 So. 3d 1146, 1148 (Fla. 1st DCA 2014). Parties can contract to terms and conditions in agreements a court can’t order.

“It is well-settled in dissolution of marriage proceedings that the parties may enter into settlement agreements imposing obligations the trial court could not otherwise impose under the applicable statutes.”

Herbst v. Herbst, 153 So. 3d 290, 292 (Fla. 2d DCA 2014) (citing Taylor, 134 So. 3d at 1148)).

See also Bingemann v. Bingemann, 551 So.2d 1228 (Fla. 1st DCA 1989) (finding parties assumed the enforceable contractual obligation to pay college expenses for their child beyond emancipation). 

Parents may agree to assume obligations a court couldn’t impose if they didn’t agree. This inability doesn’t make their agreements unenforceable

Examples appear in case law. See Winset v. Fine, 565 So.2d 794 (Fla. 3d DCA 1990) (When parties to a dissolution proceeding agree to educate their child after the child reaches age of majority, the agreement is valid and may be enforced); Kern v. Kern, 360 So.2d 482, 486, n. 6 (Fla.4th DCA 1978) (“Nothing in this opinion should be construed as limiting the power of a court to enforce a stipulated-to agreement between the parties in a dissolution proceeding.”); Holmes v. Holmes, 384 So.2d 1295 (Fla. 2d DCA 1980) (enforcing parents’ agreement to provide a college education, even though their son had reached majority).

3 multicolored birds in closeup photography. Photo by Damon Hall (Unsplash)

Opportunity to Be Creative and Flexible in Collaborative Divorce

In collaborative divorce, you and the other parent may consider specifying future events and milestones reasonably certain to occur. You may make creative and flexible agreements about changes when such events happen.  What about for events not reasonably certain to occur? Consider agreeing to alternative dispute resolution, when such events occur, if you can’t agree on how things should change. For example, you might agree to return to the collaborative process or go to mediation.

Read more:

Part 1: Collaborative Family Law Agreements and A Child’s Prospective Best Interests 

Part 2: Collaborative Family Law Agreements: Florida Parenting Plan Basics

Part 3: Collaborative Family Law Agreements: A Child’s Future Best Interests

Part 4: Florida Parenting Plans and Events Reasonably Certain to Occur

Part 5: Children’s Best Interests: Parenting Plans Entail Prediction

Part 6: Collaborative Parenting Plans: Extraordinary Burden for Modification

Part 8: Collaborative Parenting Plans: Judges Must Safeguard Children

Part 9: Collaborative Parenting Plans: Anticipating Events Reasonably Certain to Occur

Part 10: Parenting Plan Modification: Enlist Court Review When Events Occur

Part 11: Collaborative Parenting Plans: How Will You Resolve Future Impasses?

Part 12: Contingencies Parents Build into their Parenting Plans in Florida Divorces

Part 13: Florida Parenting Plans: Agreeing to a Different Burden for Modification

Follow & Like:
Skip to content