Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Settlement agreements as to child support.

Practice point:  Where a stipulation of settlement is incorporated but not merged into a judgment of divorce, it is a contract subject to the ordinary principles of contract construction and interpretation. These rules provide that a written agreement that is complete, clear and unambiguous on its face must be enforced according to the plain meaning of its terms, and courts may not by construction add or excise terms, nor distort the meaning of those used and thereby make a new contract for the parties under the guise of interpreting the writing. In the specific realm of settlement agreements defining a parent's child support obligations, there is a presumption that the agreement reflects what the parties believed to be a fair and equitable division of the financial burden to be assumed in rearing the child. However, the parties cannot contract away the duty of child support. Despite the fact that a separation agreement is entitled to the solemnity and obligation of a contract, when children's rights are involved the contract yields to the welfare of the children. The duty of a parent to support the child  cannot be eliminated or diminished by the terms of a separation agreement, nor can it be abrogated by contract.

Case:  Keller-Goldman v. Goldman, NY Slip Op 02723 (1st Dep't April 6, 2017)

Here is the decision. 

Tomorrow's issue: Post-note of issue discovery.