Use of Husband's Private Airplane

A recent Second District Court of Appeals case dealt with the Former Wife’s use of the Former Husband’s turbo-prop experimental airplane. In McCord v. McCord, the parties entered in to a Martial Settlement Agreement that stated “the wife shall be entitled to use the Husband’s airplane for up to four hours per month for 24 consecutive months and he shall cooperate fully, and she shall be responsible for showing her appreciation to the Pilot thereof; any time not used in any moth by the Wife shall be waived. The Husband will pay the fuel, pilot’s fee, and expenses.”

After the divorce, the Wife went to use the plane and found out that only the Former Husband could be the pilot. The Federal Aviation Administration had decreed that due to the experimental nature of the airplane, only the Former Husband could was allowed to pilot it, and he refused to do so for her use. The Former Wife moved the trial court for an order enforcing the settlement agreement. The trial court ordered the Former Husband to pilot the plane, and the appeal ensued.

The appellate court held that nowhere in the language did the parties agree that the Former Husband was to be the pilot. The appellate court reasoned that the language of the agreement refers twice to the airplane’s operator and in both instances it does so generically. It requires the Former Wife to bear the responsibility for demonstrating “her appreciation to the Pilot” and that the Former Husband will pay the “pilots’ fee”. The court stated that the parties had an opportunity to negotiate for and to require the Former Husband to be either the primary or default pilot, but the contractual language establishes that this was not done.

This case, while very unique, demonstrates the importance of language in a settlement agreement. It is important that the language of your agreement be clear and unambiguous. That it states with specificity the actual agreement between the parties. It is important that your agreements be drafted and reviewed by an expert family law attorney, otherwise you may be left with an agreement that is not enforceable in a court of law.