Equitable Distribution

Agreement To Arbitrate Post-Judgment Matrimonial Personal Property Disputes Enforced

In the family law, equitable distribution case of Natoli v. Natoli, 20-2-8440, N.J. App. Div., the parties’ appeal and cross-appeal of a post-judgment matrimonial order involved the scope of their arbitration agreement. Two sections of the Property Settlement Agreement (PSA), were relevant. In the first relevant section, the parties agreed to submit to binding arbitration any disputes regarding personal property that had not already been mutually distributed. Defendant argues the judge erred either by failing to take appropriate steps necessary to equitably distribute the property or by failing to order a resolution of those disputes in arbitration. The appellate panel found that the PSA and arbitration order clearly declared that the parties had agreed to arbitrate extant personal property disputes and, therefore, waived any right to a judicial determination of those disputes. All that remained for the parties was their limited right to challenge the arbitrator’s determinations, which defendant waived by filing a motion that sought enforcement of certain portions of the arbitration award. The second relevant aspect of the PSA concerned the beneficiary designation of an insurance policy. The PSA contained defendant’s agreement to retain plaintiff as the primary beneficiary provided that an alimony obligation exists. The judge directed that defendant sign a declaration form and the record on appeal included that signed form, which declares plaintiff to be the sole beneficiary irrevocably designated as long as an alimony obligation exists. The appellate panel affirmed the order under review.

Reference: Case & Analysis, New Jersey Law Journal, 221 N.J.L.J. 1766 (November 30, 2015)

Filed Under: Family Law, Equitable Distribution, Arbitration

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