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Ex-Wife Denies Voluntarily Signing PSA, but Testifies the Complete Opposite

By Snyder & Sarno on September 24, 2015

This week, the New Jersey Appellate Division decided Taveras v. Prieto, a case in which the ex-wife wanted to set aside the Property Settlement Agreement (PSA) entered into by her and her ex-husband.  She claimed that she never agreed to some handwritten additions to the PSA, and that she signed the PSA under duress.  She also said that the initials next to the handwritten provisions were not signed by her.  The trial court rejected her contentions. 

Agreeing with the trial court, the appellate panel noted that the ex-wife’s disputed recollection of events was far less credible than the ex-husband’s.  She contradicted her own testimony on several occasions.  When examined by her then-lawyer and by the judge during the divorce hearing, the ex-wife stated that she understood the PSA and that it was the result of fair negotiations between both sides. 

Probably the most striking indication of the ex-wife’s lack of credibility was her answer to a question her lawyer asked at the divorce hearing: “Did anyone force, coerce, or threaten [you] into signing this agreement?”  Her response: “no.”  This obviously flew directly in the face of one of her reasons for appealing the trial court’s decision – that she signed the PSA under duress. 

When she testified that she had not agreed to the PSA, the court reminded the ex-wife of the transcript of the divorce proceedings.  It asked her if she recalled the answers she gave to the questions her then-lawyer had asked.  Suspiciously, she claimed that she did not remember giving certain answers to those questions.

In agreeing with the trial court, the appellate court found that the ex-husband, as well as the ex-wife’s former attorney (he had since resigned as her representation), were far more credible than she.  (Despite objections by her new counsel, the court ordered the ex-wife’s former attorney to testify as to the events leading up to and including the divorce hearing.  Her current lawyer argued that the former attorney would violate the attorney-client privilege if he testified.  The court said this did not matter, since the ex-wife had already waived the privilege with her own extensive testimony.) 

The appellate panel denied the ex-wife’s appeal to set aside the PSA. 

If you are currently going through a divorce, or have an issue with alimony or child support, contact the skilled matrimonial attorneys at Snyder & Sarno, LLC.  The lawyers at Snyder & Sarno are experienced in handling cases in which the parties share children.  Call us today at (973) 274-5200.

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