Erin K. Loeb, Senior Attorney, De Novo Review
Can parties to a settlement agreement modify their settlement agreement via e-mail and without resort to court order? Yes, parties can modify their settlement agreement via e-mail so long as the agreement itself contains no contrary provision.
Settlement agreements are construed as contracts, so that their provisions are interpreted in accordance with contract principals. Robinson v. Robinson, 788 So. 2d 1092, 1094 (Fla. 4th DCA 2001). See also Elbaum v. Elbaum, 141 So. 3d 658, 661 (Fla. 4th DCA 2014) (stating a martial settlement agreement is a contract). Therefore, so long as there is no express language prohibiting modification, the parties are free to modify their agreement.
Furthermore, the relevant statute, section 61.14(1)(a), Florida Statutes (2015), while advising that “either party may apply to the circuit court…for an order decreasing or increasing the amount of…alimony,” contains no language prohibiting parties from modifying an award via e-mail agreement. Of course, the party seeking modification, still “must show a substantial change in circumstances, not contemplated at the time of the divorce judgment, which is sufficient, material, involuntary, and permanent in nature.” Ferguson v. Ferguson, 921 So. 2d 796, 797 (Fla. 5th DCA 2006).
For a case in which modification via e-mail has been construed, consult Simpson v. Simpson, 68 So. 3d 958 (Fla. 4th DCA 2011).