What Happens When a Property Settlement Agreement is Challenged?

Jun 05, 2015

When a couple gets divorced, the issues of who will remain in the marital residence and what share of equity each party is entitled to often arise.  Even if there is a property settlement agreement (PSA), conflicts still develop. 

In the recent unpublished New Jersey Appellate Division case Grella v. Rumer, the husband continued to reside in the marital residence.  As per their PSA, the husband was required, within five years after the divorce was finalized, either to sell the residence and give the wife 50% of the equity at the time of the divorce, or to buy out the wife’s share of the house. 

Five years after the parties divorced, the husband had the house appraised when it was time for him to pay his ex-wife.  The house was appraised at more than $41,000 less than the outstanding balance on the mortgage at the time.  The husband claimed that the parties were mutually mistaken believing that the house had equity at the time of the divorce five years prior.  In response, the wife contended that her ex-husband unilaterally increased the debt on the marital residence.

The court ruled that the husband did not demonstrate the necessary clear and convincing evidence to show that there was a mutual mistake.  A mutual mistake requires that both parties are operating under the same misapprehension as to an essential fact. Thus, although there was a current lack of equity, the husband did not show that there was a lack of equity at the time of divorce.

The judge affirmed the tradition of encouraging and upholding property settlement agreements entered into by parties.  See Weishaus v. Weishaus, 180 N.J. 131, 143, 849 A.2d 171 (2004). 

If you are currently going through a divorce, or have an issue with property division, contact the skilled matrimonial attorneys at Sarno da Costa D’Aniello Maceri LLC.  The attorneys at Sarno da Costa D’Aniello Maceri LLC are experienced in handling cases where the parties share assets.  Call us today at (973) 274-5200.