The ex-husband brought this post-divorce civil action against his ex-wife and Alan L. Finkel, the attorney who mediated the spouses’ 2007 divorce settlement agreement, seeking to set aside that agreement.
The husband complained that the child support provisions did not comply with the Child Support Standards Act (C.S.S.A.), that it contained erroneous statements concerning his earnings at the time.
Justice Gazzillo found that the ex-husband had not demonstrated that the Stipulation of Settlement was unfair when made or that there was overreaching in its execution. The Court placed heavy emphasis on the waivers and disclaimers signed by the parties at the time of their mediation. It was clear from the agreement between the parties and the mediator, as well as the Stipulation of Settlement, that the parties were advised to seek guidance from an outside attorney, if they so chose. This was certainly sufficient opportunity for plaintiff to have had the proposed agreement reviewed by an attorney and to have been advised of any questions he had as to its terms. By the terms of the agreement, plaintiff acknowledged that he had the right to obtain counsel, that he knew and understood what he was signing, and that he entered into it freely and voluntarily.
Pertinent portions of the agreement between the parties and The Divorce Mediation Center stated:
At the end … of the first session, you will be asked to complete a financial disclosure package. However, you are free to waive this homework assignment, provided you both agree to do so. … We highly recommend that prior to signing the final agreement, each of you spend sufficient time in fully reviewing it (and bringing it to your attorney, accountant, guru,, parent, sibling, or other adviser or confidant) to be confident that it contains everything you need, and that the agreement is fair.