Court Enforces Divorce Agreement Found on the Internet
A Long Island woman could not convince a judge to tear up the separation and property settlement agreement she found on the Internet and had her husband sign, without advice from counsel.
Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Leonard Steinman (See Profile) deemed the agreement valid and enforceable, rejecting the wife's claims it should be disregarded.
"Wife has not sustained her burden of establishing that the Agreement was abandoned, was induced by fraud or the product of overreaching," Steinman wrote on Aug. 30 in E.C. v. L.C.
The couple married in 1986 and have three children, now between age 19 and 24. The couple's marriage fell apart in January 2010, when the husband, E.C., thought the wife, L.C., was having an affair. When the wife did not return home one evening, Steinman said the husband "caught her lying about her whereabouts." Once confronted, the wife suggested a divorce. Though the husband recommended marriage counseling, the wife hesitated and moved out of the couple's bedroom to the house's basement.
Several weeks later, the wife, an administrative assistant with a $27,000 annual salary who also works as a real estate agent, gave the husband, a computer technician making about $90,000 yearly, a form agreement she had downloaded from the Internet. She recommended they both sign it immediately and turn the agreement into a divorce when their youngest son graduated from high school in two years.
Under the agreement, the couple waived maintenance, said they would make "no demand for child support payments" and agreed to sell the marital home, equally dividing the proceeds.
The agreement said the parties could exchange financial statements or choose not to. The couple opted against exchanging financial information, said Steinman.
About a month after getting the agreement, the husband told the wife in April 2010 he would sign it. He did not ask to make any changes. Neither person was represented by counsel at the time. Days after the husband's consent, the couple signed it in front of a notary public and the wife then filed the agreement with the county clerk.
The husband filed for divorce in April 2012, saying the pair were living "separate and apart" and sought to incorporate the agreement signed two years earlier.
The wife also sought divorce on no-fault grounds, but she wanted to disregard the agreement, pressing for an equitable distribution of the couple's property, along with orders of maintenance and child support, among other things.