In many divorce actions, the parties will determine how any marital property should be divided without intervention from the courts and will set forth the terms of their decision in a marital settlement agreement. While parties have the right to independently decide what is considered a fair distribution of assets, they should be careful when entering into marital settlement agreements, as they are typically upheld by the courts. In a recent New York opinion, the court discussed the grounds for setting aside a marital settlement agreement, ultimately rejecting the husband’s argument that the agreement in question was unconscionable. If you are contemplating ending your marriage or were recently served with divorce papers, it is prudent to speak with a New York divorce attorney.
History of the Case
It is reported that in July 2013, the husband initiated divorce proceedings. In September 2016, the parties, both of whom had legal representation, entered into a settlement agreement. The agreement included provisions stating that the husband transferred his rights to the marital residence to the wife and that he would settle the outstanding mortgage.
Allegedly, in January 2017, the husband tried to invalidate the settlement agreement, claiming it was unfair and obtained through coercion. The trial court denied the husband’s request and subsequently issued a divorce judgment that incorporated but did not merge the agreement. The court then divided the marital property in accordance. The husband appealed.
Validity of Marital Settlement Agreements
On appeal, the husband argued that the settlement agreement was unconscionable and the product of coercion and, therefore, the court should invalidate it. The court found, however, that the husband failed to provide sufficient evidence to support his claims.
Specifically, the court explained that in order to establish unconscionability, it must be shown that the terms of the agreement were so unfair and imbalanced that they would shock the conscience of a reasonable person. In this case, the court determined that the husband did not prove that the terms related to equitable distribution were unconscionable.
Furthermore, the court found that the husband failed to establish that he entered into the stipulation due to duress or coercion. In doing so, it explained that in order to prove duress, it is necessary to show that threats or unlawful acts compelled the performance of an act that the party had the legal right to abstain from. The court ultimately found that the husband’s claim of feeling pressured to enter into the stipulation was insufficient to establish duress or coercion. As such, the court denied the husband’s request to set aside the settlement agreement.
Meet with an Experienced New York Divorce Attorney
People have the right to determine how their marital assets should be divided in a divorce, but if they enter into a marital settlement agreement, it can be challenging for them to show that it should be set aside at a later date. If you have questions about how ending your marriage may impact you financially, it is wise to meet with a lawyer as soon as possible. Ksenia Rudyuk is an experienced New York divorce attorney who can inform you of your rights and aid you in seeking the best outcome possible. You can reach Ms. Rudyuk through the form online or at 212-706-2001 to set up a conference.