Recently, in an appealed family law case, the Second District Court of Appeal made a decision which required a former husband to pilot a private plane for his former wife. This sounds like it may be a mistake, or maybe even a nightmare, but the Court was simply applying pure contract law when it interpreted a Marital Settlement Agreement. The Marital Settlement Agreement, which is the contract in a divorce case which divides all assets and liabilities, gave the former wife use of the former husband’s private airplane, required the former wife to show appreciation to the pilot, and required the former husband to cooperate fully. This agreement worked wonderfully until the Federal Aviation Administration decided that because the aircraft was experimental in nature, only the former husband was permitted to pilot the plane. What resulted was what anyone would expect: a battle over whether the former husband had to chauffeur his former wife in his private plane, and how the former wife would be required to show her appreciation should he be required to pilot the plane.
The words “fully cooperate” became the crux of the decision, and are responsible for the outcome of the case. Absent any express language precluding, or excusing, the former husband from piloting for the former wife, he was required to do everything he could to facilitate her use of the plane. This case teaches everyone that the one of most important things you can do is think of all possible negative or uncomfortable situations in the future, and draft an agreement to prevent them. An experienced family law attorney, who has handled many different types of cases before, will be able to assist you in spotting loopholes or other issues with your divorce contracts, and resolving them prior to an agreement being reached.