Doherty v. Doherty

Doherty v. Doherty

Submitted by New Jersey Family Law Firm, Hark and Hark.

Docket No. A-2016-18T4

In an unpublished decision, the Appellate Division recently took on an issue of jurisdiction as it relates to enforceability of a Property Settlement Agreement (PSA).

The parties signed a PSA three years prior to plaintiff filing a complaint for divorce. Plaintiff filed a complaint in the Family Part seeking to incorporate the PSA into a final judgment of divorce. Defendant filed an answer and counterclaim, seeking alimony and equitable distribution of marital assets. Plaintiff thereafter moved to enforce the PSA and for entry of a judgment of divorce incorporating the terms of the agreement. Defendant opposed the motion and cross-moved to invalidate the PSA.

The agreement provided the parties waive any right to alimony and affirms the transfer of the marital home to plaintiff. While the PSA notes one of the parties has a business and one has a pension, it did not distribute either of those assets.

The parties provided varying versions of the negotiations resulting in the PSA. Defendant testified he was coerced into signing the agreement by constant phone calls from plaintiff, up to as many as fifty a day.  On the day the PSA was signed, the parties, who were not represented by counsel, met at a bank selected by defendant because he knew a notary public who worked. When asked by the notary if he had read the PSA, defendant stated he had not and did not wish to do so.

Defendant testified he was feeling suicidal on the day he signed the PSA and did not care about the terms of the agreement because he “wasn’t [going to] be there the next day.” Plaintiff testified that on the day the parties signed the PSA, she did not notice anything about defendant which would lead to a heightened concern for his well-being. Defendant admitted he did not feel suicidal shortly after the meeting and has never been diagnosed with a mental illness.

Defendant attempted to seek alimony and other terms that were contrary to the terms outline in the PSA.  Even though it was signed three years prior to the divorce, the Court enforced the terms of the PSA as they were written.  The Court found Defendant to be not credible as to his arguments.

When you or your spouse is seeking a divorce it is vital to contact an attorney to ensure your rights, children, and property are protected.  Entering into a Property Settlement Agreement (PSA) or a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) are some of the most important and long-lasting agreements.  Obligations for alimony, child support, equitable distribution, and custody can last for years, even if you deem them unfair afterwards.

At Hark & Hark, we help parents with divorce, custody, child support, alimony, equitable distribution issues and more.

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Michael J. Collis, Esquire

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Criminal Civil Lawyer

Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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