Caution: Warnings for Older Couples Who Getting Divorced
A recent high-profile West Palm Beach divorce case finally ended recently after a protracted battle that involved an appeal and 11 related, but separate, legal actions. In the case of Zelman v. Zelman, millions of dollars were at stake between Martin Zelman, a 87-year-old Long Island businessman who has slipped into dementia over the past few years, his adult children from his first marriage and guardians, and 80-year-old Lois Zelman. The Palm Beach County Circuit Court ordered Lois to move out of the couple’s Palm Beach condominium in 2014 amid the children’s allegations that Lois was abusing Martin, a decision that eventually was overturned by the 4th District Court of Appeal. That order, however, came too late for Lois, who by then had not seen Martin for a year or more. As a result of this time lapse and his worsening dementia, Martin no longer recognized Lois. Ultimately, the parties resolved the case through a settlement, through which Lois will receive $9.75 million and finally part ways legally with her husband of 15 years.
Divorce issues Faced by Older Americans
One major issue that arose in the Zelman case was Martin’s mental competency. Both judges who presided over this case found that Martin was incompetent; however, one judge allowed him to retain the right to sue and be sued, which allowed him to seek a divorce. This was an important factor, because pursuant to the parties’ prenuptial agreement, Lois would receive none of Martin’s estimated $50 million in assets if the parties divorced. However, this clause applied only if Martin himself filed the divorce action. If it was necessary for guardians to file for divorce on behalf of Martin, or if Martin died, then Lois would receive approximately $10 million. Further complicating the matter is a Florida law that requires a three-year waiting period to get a divorce when one spouse has been declared mentally incompetent.
Preventing Divorce Debacles Later in Life
While the best advice for parties who are older, own a significant amount of assets, and are entering into a second or subsequent marriage is to enter into a prenuptial agreement, the Zelman case is a good example of how a prenuptial agreement can fall quite short. While the Zelmans’ prenuptial agreement contained some unusual provisions, it did not contemplate the effects of some life-altering events, such as here, where one spouse suffered from dementia. Although it is never pleasant to consider death, injury, or illness, parties must anticipate the fact that these conditions might come to fruition at some point during their marriage.
Contact a Florida Divorce Lawyer For Help
Prenuptial agreements are complicated legal documents that vary widely, depending on the facts involved in a particular relationship. Every couple has different needs that can be adequately addressed in a prenuptial agreement. It simply takes the skill and knowledge of a seasoned divorce lawyer to help you through this stage in your life. Contact Vanessa L. Prieto Law Offices, LLC, today, and learn how you can benefit from representation by an experienced Florida divorce attorney.