In its December 16, 2021 decision in Anderson v. Anderson, New York’s highest court ruled that the parties to a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement must acknowledge their signatures within a reasonable time of their signing. In a second appeal in Koegel v. Koegel, the Court of Appeals in its same decision also held that if the agreement is acknowledged by the parties at or within a reasonable time after signing, a defect in the acknowledgment certificate form may be cured at a later time by extrinsic proof.

In Anderson, the wife had signed and acknowledged the nuptial agreement the month after the wedding. Regardless of when the husband signed the agreement, his signature was not acknowledged until nearly seven years later, shortly before he commenced a divorce action and in anticipation of his wife’s imminent divorce filing.

In Koegel, the parties executed a nuptial agreement approximately one month before their marriage. The agreement provided that neither party would claim any part of the other’s estate, with both waiving their respective elective or statutory shares. Both parties signed the agreement, and their signatures were acknowledged, each by his or her own lawyer. The acknowledgment followed the statutory requirements in all but one respect: both lawyers failed to attest that the signer was known to them.

Continue Reading Delayed Acknowledgment Invalidates Nuptial Agreement; Defective Form Does Not

In its October 22, 2014 decision, the Appellate Division Second Department in Ebel v. Ebel  upheld an open-court divorce settlement stipulation against the attack of the wife.

In his June, 2012 determination of the lower court, then Supreme Court Suffolk County Justice Hector D. LaSalle (now himself an Associate Justice on the Appellate Division Second Department) had rejected the argument of the wife that her emotional state prevented her from entering that May, 2011 settlement stipulation knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently.

On appeal, the Second Department first noted that the wife’s contention that the terms of the parties’ stipulation of settlement were unconscionable was not properly raised on appeal, as it was not raised at the trial level.

The wife’s additional contention on appeal that the stipulation should have been vacated because it did not address, and she did not waive her claims regarding, certain financial issues was also found to be without without merit.

The Second Department noted that stipulations of settlement are favored by the courts and are not lightly cast aside, particularly when the parties are represented by attorneys.

Where, as here, the record demonstrates that the parties validly entered into a comprehensive open-court stipulation by which the plaintiff knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently agreed to be bound, the agreement will not be set aside.

Here, the terms of the parties’ agreement, including issues of financial support and equitable distribution of the marital residence, were placed on the record in what the Justice LaSalle characterized as a “global stipulation of settlement.” Moreover, the wife’s counsel affirmatively waived all other equitable distribution matters and withdrew all outstanding requests for relief.

Continue Reading Attacking Open-Court Divorce Stipulations: Is There a Double Standard?