Focus on Domestic Violence: What do “Duress” and “Coercion” Mean?

Focus on Domestic Violence: What do “Duress” and “Coercion” Mean?

legal definitionThere are certain circumstances in which a divorce settlement can be revisited, and pre- and post- nuptial agreements can be reconsidered. But one party feeling like they got a bad deal is not sufficient.

Sometimes one party may claim that they signed these important legal documents under duress or coercion. However, the legalities of these situations are determined in a case by case basis and must be examined closely. In Florida, there is a two-prong analysis to determine the validity of the agreement.

The agreement can be reconsidered if either prong is met:

  1. That party did not execute the agreement voluntarily; or
  2. The agreement was unconscionable when it was executed and, before the execution of the agreement, that party:
  3. Was not provided a fair and reasonable disclosure of the property or financial obligations of the other party;
    ii. Did not voluntarily and expressly waive, in writing, any right to disclosure of the property or financial obligations of the other party beyond the disclosure provided; and
    iii. Did not have, or reasonably could not have had, an adequate knowledge of the property or financial obligations of the other party.


However, it is important to be clear on the definitions of coercion and duress before asserting that either has occurred. According to

Duress occurs when your former spouse performed an unlawful act or issued a threat that induced you to sign divorce papers against your free will. The key to a claim of duress is the loss of free will (

Coercion is almost synonymous with duress. However, in coercion, “actions are used as leverage, to force the victim to act in a way contrary to their own interests” (Wikipedia, 2018).

If you are currently in the process of compiling a pre- or post-nuptial agreement, or if you are in the process of reviewing and signing a divorce settlement, it is important to ensure that nothing is done under duress or coercion. IF you feel like you may be a victim of this kind of pressure, it is important that you discuss it with a lawyer in order to determine if your case meets the legal definition and burden of proof for duress or coercion.

To speak to an experienced family law attorney at Parra Harris Law, contact us at 904-900-1617.

Paola Parra Harris