Party Who Accepts Benefits of Marital Settlement Agreement Waives Right to Challenge its Validity: Second Department Weighs In

In its December 10, 2014 decision in Sabowitz v. Sabowitz, the Appellate Division, Second Department, affirmed the granting of summary judgment dismissing the husband’s challenge to the validity of the parties’ stipulation in which they settled their divorce action. That award had been made below by Supreme Court, Kings County Justice Eric I. Prus.

In its decision, the Second Department emphasized that “judicial review [of marital settlement agreements] is to be exercised sparingly” based on the strong public policy of “encouraging parties to settle their differences on their own.” The Second Department also noted that during the seven years that elapsed between the signing of the agreement and the husband’s commencement of his legal challenge to the agreement, the husband had “ratified the Stipulation and waived his claim to set aside the Stipulation” by accepting the benefits provided to him under the agreement.

Both the underlying circumstances and legal analysis in the Second Department’s Sabowitz decision are strikingly similar to those in Hoffer-Adou v. Adou, in which the First Department upheld New York Supreme Court Justice Deborah A. Kaplan’s rejection of the husband’s attack of the parties’ separation agreement. In Hoffer-Adou, Justice Kaplan and the Appellate Division rejected the husband’s attack as a belated and woefully deficient attempt to challenge a fundamentally fair agreement that the husband had already ratified for a period of years.

In Hoffer-Adou, the prevailing wife was represented by attorney Marc A. Rapaport. In Sabowitz, the prevailing wife was represented by the Law Office of Elliott S. Martin of Brooklyn.

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