Lawson v. Lawson, Ky COA, Marital Settlement Agreement, CR 60.02 Corrected)

Oops! Wife received $24 million in the settlement. What's another $20M?

 

 Lawson v. Lawson, ___S.W.3d __ (Ky.App. 2009); 2008-CA-000824-MR

 The parties divorced in 2006.  The wife sought and received an expedited divorce without conducting discovery into the extent of the marital estate.  In the settlement agreement, wife received approximately 4 million dollars of assets and immediately began accepting the benefits of same following the divorce.  Eleven months later, wife filed a CR 60.02 motion challenging the separation agreement based on claims of intimidation, overreaching and/or mental incompetence.  The trial court denied her motion for three reasons:  1) the claims of intimidation, overreaching and/or mental incompetence were unsupported, 2) even if her claims were true, she ratified the agreement by continuing to pursue the benefits of it, and 3) the CR 60.02 motion was not brought within a reasonable amount of time.  Wife appealed.

The COA affirmed.  The trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding that her claims were unsupported or that the motion was not brought within a reasonable time period.  Wife had testified to the trial court that the agreement was fair, the record showed that the parties had negotiated the terms of the agreement, and her attorney had written the wife letters, which wife had signed as well, explaining all the risks of signing an expedited settlement agreement.  The COA did not address whether wife had ratified the agreement by her actions. 

Senior Judge Harris, Concurring opinion:  The majority reached the right result.  However, had the CR 60.02 motion been timely presented, the trial court would have had to grant the wife an evidentiary hearing on her mental capacity claim and then render a specific finding of fact as to her mental capacity at the time she signed the agreement. 

Digested by Sarah Jost Nielsen, Diana L. Skaggs + Associates