Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Divorce

Divorce settlement agreements are contracts that are interpreted and enforced by a Miami family court similar to the way most other contracts are reviewed. Generally, a court cannot modify the equitable distribution terms of a Miami divorce decree without the consent of both parties, and the Court is bound by the plain language of the agreement in enforcement proceedings. 

In the case Garcia-Lawson v. Lawson, 211 So.3d 140 (Fla. 4th DCA 2017), the appellate court considered the trial court's award of an equitable lien to the former husband upon the former wife's equitable distribution interest in the former husband's retirement account. This was awarded as a consequence of the former wife's failure to make an equalization payment. 

In reversing the equitable lien, the appellate court held that once the final judgment awarded the former wife her equitable distribution of the former husband's retirement account, the same was the sole property of the former wife. Therefore, since Florida law states certain pension money is exempt from claims of creditors, the trial court committed an error when it awarded the lien. The remedy available when a former spouse is not following the equitable distribution provisions of a final judgment is that which is available to creditors. To rule otherwise would amount to a modification of the final judgment which is not permitted. 

The same is true when it comes to marital settlement agreements entered between spouses - the court is not at liberty to modify the terms of the agreement without the consent of both parties. If you are having trouble receiving property from your ex-spouse that was awarded to you in your divorce decree, a consultation with a Miami divorce lawyer may help you determine the best way to proceed.