Equitable Distribution

A Completed, Executed Marital Property Settlement Agreement Found On The Internet Ruled To Be A Valid And Enforceable Agreement

In the equitable distribution, family law case of Zandrowicz v. Zandrowicz, PICS Case No. 15-2015 (C. P. Monroe, June 24, 2015), the Honorable Jennifer Harlacher Sibum ruled that the terms of Marital Property Settlement Agreement completed with an online form valid and enforceable.

Plaintiff Robert Zandrowicz and defendant Agnieszka Zandrowicz were married on Nov. 20, 1998. They have two children. The parties utilized a form they found on the Internet and executed a Marital Property Settlement Agreement on April 11, 2012. On July 3, 2012, the court issued a Divorce Decree which incorporated, but did not merge, the parties’ agreement into the decree.

Defendant filed a petition to enforce marital property settlement agreement on Nov. 1, 2014. Plaintiff raised several challenges to the agreement enforcement.

First, plaintiff argued that the action was barred by the doctrine of laches because defendant failed to commence an action to enforce the property settlement agreement for two years after its execution. The court rejected plaintiff’s laches defense. The parties testified that, following their decision to separate, they knowingly remained in a living arrangement where defendant remained in the marital residence, had access to plaintiff’s bank accounts, maintained the household and cared for the parties’ children. Plaintiff testified that he provided financial support for the benefit of the household and his children and the living arrangement provided him the opportunity to spend time with his children. Plaintiff failed to demonstrate any prejudice.

Plaintiff next argued that the property settlement agreement should be dismissed based on equitable estoppel. Plaintiff contended that he entered into the agreement relying on defendant’s assurances that his spousal maintenance and child support obligations would not change. The court rejected plaintiff’s argument. The parties testified that, following their decision to separate and in an effort to save attorney fees, they obtained a blank property settlement agreement from the Internet. Plaintiff and defendant testified that they read the form together, discussed the relevant terms and provisions they wanted to include, and plaintiff populated the blank form according to their mutual agreement. Plaintiff’s mistaken understanding of his spousal and child support obligations was not induced by any representation on defendant’s part.

Plaintiff’s argument that the agreement should not be enforced due to defendant’s negligent misrepresentation similarly failed.

Reference: Digest of Recent Opinions, Pennsylvania Law Weekly 39 PLW 20 (January 5, 2016)

Filed Under: Marital Property Settlement Agreement; Equitable Distribution; Validity of Internet Forms

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