New York Court Discusses Enforcement of Settlement Agreements in Divorce Actions

Ending a marriage often has emotional ramifications, but some people are able to set aside their feelings and negotiate and enter into settlement agreements that set forth their rights and obligations instead of engaging in litigation. Simply because parties enter into such agreements does not always mean that they will abide by their terms, though. In cases in which a person fails to comply with a stipulation of settlement, the party impacted can seek relief from the courts, as demonstrated in a recent New York ruling. If you consider a divorce, it is smart to meet with a New York divorce lawyer as soon as possible to determine your options.

Factual Setting and Procedural History

It is reported that the husband and wife were married and had two children together. The husband filed a divorce action in 2010. The parties subsequently entered into an oral stipulation of settlement in February 2011. The stipulation granted the defendant sole custody of the children and outlined the sale of the marital residence, a cooperative apartment in Yonkers.

Allegedly, the husband, who was responsible for the maintenance fees associated with the marital residence, had his child support obligations stayed until the apartment was sold. The divorce was finalized in August 2011, with the stipulation incorporated but not merged into the judgment. In December 2012, the wife moved to transfer the title of the marital residence, citing the husband’s refusal to sell, non-payment of maintenance fees, and impending eviction. The trial court granted the wife’s motion, and the husband appealed.

Enforcing Settlement Agreements in Divorce Actions

On appeal, the court rejected the defendant’s claim of untimeliness. The court then delved into the nature of stipulations incorporated but not merged into divorce judgments. The court explained that such stipulations are deemed independent contracts binding the parties. Challenges or reforms typically require a plenary action, while enforcement can be sought within the divorce action.

In the subject case, the wife, seeking enforcement of the stipulation, was not obligated to initiate a plenary action. Further, the court explained that the trial did not alter the stipulation’s terms when transferring title to the wife. In doing so, it noted that stipulations are subject to contract principles, and the court interprets them based on their plain and ordinary meaning to fulfill parties’ reasonable expectations.

In this case, the stipulation unambiguously required listing the apartment for sale with detailed mechanisms. The husband’s failure to comply with the terms of the stipulation delayed child support obligations and risked eviction for the wife and children. Consequently, the court affirmed the trial court’s decision, emphasizing that given the facts of the case, the trial court properly granted the wife’s motion for enforcement of the stipulation’s provisions.

Talk to a Dedicated New York Attorney

Settlement agreements can help parties in divorce actions legally sever their ties in an efficient and amicable manner, but if parties do not comply with the terms of such agreements, additional intervention from the courts may be necessary. If you are interested in learning more about your options with regard to ending your marriage, it is advisable to talk to a lawyer. Ksenia Rudyuk is a dedicated New York divorce attorney who can aid you in seeking the best legal outcome possible under the facts of your case. You can contact Ms. Rudyuk by calling 212-706-2001or using the form online to arrange a meeting.

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