Simply because a couple decides to end a marriage does not mean that the process of dissolving their relationship has to be contentious. Instead, many parties are able to resolve their disputes without the intervention of the courts and will negotiate a marital settlement agreement resolving issues of custody, support, and property division. Marital settlement agreements are usually incorporated into divorce decrees and enforced by the courts. In some instances, however, a court will find sufficient grounds to set aside a marital settlement agreement, as explained in a recent New York opinion. If you wish to end your marriage, it is prudent to meet with a skillful New York divorce attorney to assess your options.
History of the Case
It is reported that the husband and the wife were divorced via a final judgment issued by the trial court in December 2016. Prior to the entry of the judgment, the parties entered into a marital settlement agreement, which was incorporated but not merged into the judgment. In June 2018, the trial court set forth an order finding that the husband owed the wife over $100,000 in child support and directing an entry of a money judgment against the husband.
Allegedly, the husband then filed an action asking the court to set aside the marital settlement agreement on the grounds of duress, fraud, overreaching, coercion, and unconscionability. The husband also filed a motion to stay the trial court order, after which the wife filed a motion to dismiss the husband’s action. The court denied the wife’s motion, after which she appealed.
Setting Aside a Marital Settlement Agreement
In New York, marital settlement agreements are favored by the courts and will not readily be set aside. Instead, if a marital settlement agreement is fair on its face, the terms of the agreement will be enforced absent proof of duress, fraud, unconscionability, or overreaching. To prove fraud, a party must show that a fact was materially misrepresented, with the knowledge that it was untrue and the intent to persuade another party to rely on the falsehood. The injured party must also show that it justifiably relied on the misrepresentation and that it suffered damages as a result.
In the subject case, the husband demonstrated that the attorney that represented him in the divorce proceedings was chosen and paid for by the wife and that the attorney advised the husband that he could only request a modification of one provision of the marital settlement agreement. Further, the wife made significant changes to the agreement after it was signed by the husband. Thus, the court found that the trial court properly denied the wife’s motion to dismiss the husband’s claims.
Speak to a Trusted Family Law Attorney in New York
Regardless of how amicable an estranged couple’s relationship may be, it is prudent for each party to be represented by independent counsel throughout the divorce process. If you wish to seek a dissolution of your marriage or you were served with divorce papers, attorney Ksenia Rudyuk can assist you in seeking a just result. Ms. Rudyuk is a trusted family law attorney with the skills and resources needed to help parties navigate the complexities of divorce, and if you hire her, she will fight diligently on your behalf. You can reach Ms. Rudyuk through the form online or at 212-706-2001 to schedule a meeting.