A judge recently overturned a divorce settlement between actor Terrence Howard and his second wife, Michelle Ghent. The judge ruled that Howard was coerced into the settlement.
Howard argued that Ghent threatened to leak private details about him if he refused to sign the settlement. The private details included a video of Howard dancing naked and recordings of Howard having phone sex with other women.
Under the divorce settlement, which was signed by both parties in 2012, Ghent would have received a share of Howard’s earnings. This included a portion of his earnings from the hit TV show “Empire.”
Settlement agreements are voidable if one of the parties was coerced into signing it. In Howard’s case, the judge found that there was evidence of extortion or duress. Thus, the judge found that the settlement was voidable. Howard and Ghent must now renegotiate the terms of their divorce.
Duress, or coercion, is just one of the reasons why a divorce settlement may not be enforceable. In New Jersey, a settlement agreement can also be overturned for the following reasons:
- There was a mistake of fact that prejudiced one or both parties.
- One party committed fraud, misrepresentation, or misconduct. An example of this is if one spouse hid his or her assets.
- The terms of the agreement are not fair or conscionable.
- One spouse has undue influence over the other. Essentially, this means that one spouse no longer has free will.
- There is newly discovered evidence that would likely alter the agreement.
- One or both spouses lacked mental capacity. One example of this is if a spouse was severely intoxicated when he or she signed the agreement.
If you and your spouse are getting a divorce and want to sign a divorce settlement, you may find it helpful to consult an experienced family law attorney. As Howard’s case shows, just because you signed an agreement does not mean it will necessarily be a valid court order. There are a number of steps you must take and considerations you must keep in mind when reaching a settlement.
Source: NJHerald, “Judge overturns actor Terrence Howard’s divorce settlement,” Anthony McCartney, Aug. 24, 2015