Prior Property Distribution Agreements

       The case of Eberhardt v. Eberhardt teaches the lesson that before putting any wording in a contract, you and your attorney must be very sure that the words are truly what you intend. 

Facts

            The parties had an agreement regarding division of assets and spousal support that stated “[t]he parties by counsel have reached an agreement with regard to all issues in this matter.” The agreement did not address any omitted or non-disclosed assets. The wife then found out about an IRA account and two escrow refund checks that she had not received a piece of and wanted a portion of them. The husband claimed she did not deserve any portion of the IRA account or refund checks and also requested a return of $20,000 of the $65,000 he had paid in attorney’s fees. The circuit court divided the IRA and refund checks, but refused to credit the husband $20,000. 

Decision

            The appeal court reversed the circuit court’s decision, in part, by agreeing with the husband that the IRA was not included in the party’s earlier agreement. The court focused on the line that the parties had resolved “all issues in this matter.” The parties wanted the agreement to be final and comprehensive in regard to equitable distribution. The fact that the agreement did not distribute all marital property did not give the circuit court the power to amend the agreement and distribute property the parties did not address. The appeal court then affirmed the circuit court’s decision, in part, when it decided that the previous agreement addressed the escrow refund checks and that the husband does not deserve a credit for the attorney’s fees he paid prior to the agreement. Therefore, the escrow refund checks were equally divided with the wife. The $20,000 payment could have also been addressed in the agreement, but since it wasn’t the court could not award it to the husband.  

Importance of an Excellent Lawyer

The skilled lawyers at Smith Strong will carefully draft every contract so as to make sure your divorce and subsequent division of assets will go as smoothly as possible. If you are in need of a lawyer for a divorce proceeding, or if you have any other family law or estate related needs, or would like to attend one of our free seminars please call Smith Strong today at (804) 325-1245 or (757) 941-4298.

Editorial Assistance By: Michael Gee – Law Clerk

H. Van Smith
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