Ferguson v. Ferguson
54 So.3d 553 (Dist. Ct. App. Fla. 2011)

Facts:

  • Husband and Wife entered into a marital settlement agreement in 2008.
  • In return for title to their house, Husband would refinance the house and pay Wife $185,000.
  • However, shortly after entering into the agreement, the housing market crashed, and Husband refused to refinance and pay the Wife.
  • Wife sued to enforce their agreement.

History:
The trial court declared paragraph eighteen “to be an impossibility of performance due to changes in the economy and therefore void.”

Issue:
Whether the trial court reversibly erred by voiding paragraph eighteen of the mediated marital settlement agreement for impossibility of performance due to changes in the economy.

Holding:
Yes. Case reversed.

Reasoning:

  • A marital settlement agreement entered into by the parties and ratified by a final judgment is a contract, subject to the laws of contract. Therefore, the defense of impossibility must be applied with great caution if the contingency was foreseeable.
  • The important question in impossibility cases is whether an unanticipated circumstance has made performance of the promise vitally different from what should reasonably have been within the contemplation of both parties when they entered into the contract.
  • Here, the court held that declines in the real estate market (and economic downturns in general) are foreseeable and do not constitute unanticipated changed circumstances. Thus, Husband bore the risk and the court’s job isn’t to bail people out of bad deals.

Rule: The principle of contract law that bad deals are just as enforceable in the law as good deals applies to martial agreements.