New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Judicial Department
Unconscionable – Duress
Campbell v. Campbell
Appealed from Supreme Court, Herkimer County
Background: The plaintiff commenced an action for divorce and the defendant served a second amended answer with a counterclaim seeking to incorporate but not merge into the judgment of divorce a 2017 postnuptial agreement. The plaintiff alleged that the agreement should be found null and void or set aside on the grounds that he signed it under duress and that the agreement was unconscionable. The defendant appealed from a determination that the agreement was invalid and unenforceable.
Ruling: The Appellate Division reversed. The court held that, even if taken as true that the defendant persistently urged him to sign the 2017 agreement under threat of telling the parties’ children of the plaintiff’s past wrongful conduct, such conduct did not amount to any unlawful acts on the part of the defendant sufficient to constitute duress. Furthermore, the agreement was not unconscionable despite the fact that the plaintiff was not represented by counsel. The parties waived the right to receive maintenance, separate property was clearly defined and there was nothing contained within the agreement that would shock the conscience.
Maria C. Tebano, of Tabano & Associates, for the defendant-appellant; Charles W. Engelbrecht for the plaintiff-respondent.