There are many cases that say that the settlement of litigation ranks high in the public policy of this state,  As such, there are many cases that say that an agreement can be enforced, even if it is not reduced to a writing, if the major terms have been agreed to.  As my client learned in Brawer v. Brawer, the unexpressed intention not to be bound is irrelevant.  There is no place in the law for second thoughts where the parties have expressed their agreement.  In fact, in a case called Bistricer, the judge said:

… the proposition that a case is not settled until the last “i” is dotted and the last “t” is crossed on a written settlement agreement carries the germ of much mischief. A party could, in bad faith, waste the time of the court and the other litigant in protracted settlement negotiations, and then, after a “framework” has been established, wiggle out of that framework by creating a flood of new issues and questions.

Just as you can’t wiggle out of a settlement, similarly, you cannot appeal a settlement.  This issue reared its head in the case of Courboin v. Courboin, an unreported (non-precedential) opinion decided on February 21, 2013.  In this case, after two days of trial, the parties settled and put their settlement on the record. The husband testified that he agreed to be bound.  As part of that settlement, the home was to be sold.


Continue Reading If You Enter Into An Agreement or Consent Order, You Can't Appeal It

Reading and considering Eric Solotoff’s blog from earlier this week regarding the benefits of settlement, it is also critical to know when to settle and, quite frankly, whether to settle at all. This especially applies to those current or former spouses who simply cannot afford to litigate against a financially superior former spouse. This situation is often referred to as litigating on an “uneven playing field.”

Trying to some degree to place myself in your shoes, it can only be an extremely difficult decision whether to, once again, go up against the other party with the bottomless wallet, or just settle for what they want and get it over with. These decisions may not only have an impact on your own wallet, but also on your family’s overall well being, especially if children are involved. Too often, the other party knows this to be the case, which is why they will continue to file or threaten to file motions in the hope that you will eventually “give in” under the pressure.

This blog should not be taken as a sign of encouragement to litigate a case, but rather as a cautionary note for what you, as a litigant, may be sacrificing with your decision. Ultimately, it is you who has to wake up in the morning and be comfortable with your decision, which is why having all information at your disposal is, perhaps, the most important part of the decision-making process.


Continue Reading Deciding Whether to Settle or Defend Yourself Against a Persistent and Financially Superior Spouse

When settling a case, the parties and their lawyers can be far more creative in settlement then a judge can be if the case is tried.  While family judges have wide discretion in their decision making, creativity is crafting the most beneficial result for both parties is rarely something they can do.  In fact, in many ways, they are constrained from the type of creativity that we see every day in divorce agreements. 

What if you are a high earner, but your income fluctuates greatly from year to year?  While a judge will likely have no choice but to determine your average income over 3 to 5 years and base support upon that as well as the rest of the statutory factors, you may want to agree on some kind of formula so that there is fairness year over year, i.e. you pay more in a better year and less in a down year. For example, if your average income is $2,500,000 but your income fluctuates between $1 million and $4 million per year.  You would really hate paying alimony in those years you only make $1 million.  If a judge decided this case using averages, you might be forced to pay your entire net income, or more, to you ex spouse in the down year.  Similarly, a judge could never say that support "automatically" is reduced or even reviewed if your income is less than $X in the future. 

This concept was reiterated again by the Appellate Division on October 29, 2012 in an unreported  (non-precedential) decision in the case of Means v. Snipes.  In this case, after a trial, the judge decided that in the event that defendant’s annual income fell below $2 million, he would receive a reduction in alimony. This is the one thing that both parties agreed was in error – a rare agreement in a very contentious case.


Continue Reading Another Reason To Settle – Parties Can Agree To Things that Judges Can’t Mandate – Like Automatic Reductions and Formulas for Alimony