No Credit for Money Paid to Ex-Spouse Without Contract
In this Second Department case decided July 3, 2019, the parties were divorced, but continued to live together. When the ex-wife returned from a trip to Russia, the ex-husband had changed the locks on the doors (and mailbox) and refused entry to the ex-wife. The ex-wife sued for and received her half of the equity in the home, $163,250. She was also awarded an additional $47,967.67 because the ex-husband had ousted her from the home and had retained the exclusive use and occupancy for himself. As a final repudiation of the ex-husband's behavior, he was denied credit for the $100,000 he had previously paid the ex-wife for her share of equity in the home, despite being able to produce checks showing the amount of payment. The Court invoked the statute of frauds and denied the ex-husband credit because the sale of real estate requires a written contract, and the $100,000 payment was not "explainable only with reference to the oral agreement."
While divorcing parties are encouraged to reach an agreement on the division of marital property, when dealing with assets of significant value they should seek the assistance of attorneys to ensure that agreements are enforceable and include the necessary formalities.