It is certainly not a rare problem. When confronted with fraudulent income tax returns, what is a divorce court to do? Should they be used as swords or shields?

In her January 31, 2014 decision in Morille-Hinds v. Hinds, Supreme Court Queens County Justice Pam Jackman Brown appears to have disregarded the failure to report a husband’s income on the parties’ joint income tax returns when recognizing his claim to a 50% share of marital property. Nevertheless, those returns were honored when fixing the wife’s entitlement to child support.

The parties, both 54, married in 1993. The wife had commenced this divorce action in 2007. The husband had appealed from the 2009 decision of Judicial Hearing Officer Stanley Gartenstein who had awarded him only 15% of the marital property. The J.H.O. had also imputed to the husband an annual income of $80,000 for the purpose of determining his child support obligation. The Second Department reversed, holding that decision was patently unfair to the husband. The case was sent back for a retrial on the issues of equitable distribution and child support.


Continue Reading Fraudulent Tax Returns in Divorce Actions: Sword or Shield?

The failure of the now-deceased wife to disclose that she was suffering from terminal cancer at the time the parties entered their divorce settlement agreement was not a basis to set aside that agreement. So held the Appellate Division Second Department in its August 28, 2013 decision in Petrozza v. Franzen.

Richmond County Supreme Court Justice John A. Fusco had granted summary judgment dismissing the complaint in the husband’s plenary action to rescind the agreement brought against the executors of the wife’s estate. The husband had alleged that his wife had fraudulently and actively concealed her illness. That illness resulted in the wife’s death after the execution of the settlement agreement, but before the entry of a final judgment of divorce.

Affirming that dismissal, the Second Department noted that to demonstrate fraud, a plaintiff must show that the defendant “knowingly misrepresented or concealed a material fact for the purpose of inducing [him] to rely upon it, and that [he] justifiably relied upon such misrepresentation or concealment to his . . . detriment.”


Continue Reading Concealing Terminal Cancer Not Basis to Invalidate Divorce Settlement