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July 21, 2013
In a case that highlights the importance of having legal counsel actively involved when drafting contracts having financial significance, the Supreme Court of Georgia upheld the judgment of the Superior Court of Fulton County that a postnuptial agreement entered into between a husband and his wife was invalid as a matter of law and that the alimony provisions in the contract were unenforceable.
The case arose in the context of a marriage that was having difficulty. At issue was a lengthy letter agreement that the wife, a non-attorney, allegedly drafted to her then-husband, setting out, among other things, the terms of alimony. When the parties ultimately proceeded with divorce, and very large sums of money were at stake, the wife asserted that alimony was governed by the letter agreement. The husband vigorously opposed the wife’s argument, asserting that the alimony provisions had omitted material terms and that the language the wife employed was far too vague to be judicially enforced.
The trial court agreed with the husbands argument and invalidated the entire alimony provision. However, the wife sought and was able to obtain discretionary review of the trial court’s decision by the Georgia Supreme Court. The review obtained is referred to as “interlocutory” review because the case was not yet concluded in the trial court. The Supreme Court rarely grants applications for interlocutory review. In fact, the wife’s application was only one of seven interlocutory appeal applications granted by the Supreme Court in 2012. The question that the Supreme Court directed the parties to address was whether the trial court erred in invalidating the entire alimony provision.
Parks, Chesin & Walbert was brought in to represent the husband in the appeal. PCW Partner Larry Chesin oversaw the briefing of the issues and handled the oral argument in the case. In the end, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the alimony provisions were unenforceable since a valid agreement requires agreement on all essential terms and that the letter agreement did not meet these standards. Several specific instances which were brought to the Court’s attention by counsel were referenced in the opinion.
On the Court’s decision, Mr. Chesin commented: “The firm and our client were both extremely pleased with the Court’s ruling. One always is concerned when an interlocutory appeal is granted on a favorable ruling, and the question asked by the appellate court is whether the trial court’s decision in favor of your client was erroneous.”
The case is Eversbusch v. Eversbusch, Case No. S130494. A copy of the Supreme Court’s opinion can be found here.