A recent case out of the Supreme Court of the State of New York addresses oral agreements about spousal maintenance.
The case, Matter of Makris v. Makris (2020), demonstrates that a court will uphold an oral agreement to terminate maintenance. Further, if a party fails to demand maintenance, that failure can constitute a ratification of the oral agreement. In Makris, the wife’s failure to enforce a maintenance provision amounted to a waiver of her right to maintenance.
In the parties’ 1998 divorce, the court ordered the husband to pay child support and spousal maintenance to the wife.
In 2017, the husband filed a motion to terminate the spousal maintenance obligation. In that motion, the husband reported that he and his wife orally agreed to terminate the obligation back in 2001. Accordingly, the husband stopped making spousal maintenance payments in 2001. During the period between 2001 and 2017, the wife never demanded maintenance payments. To be sure, the wife did not file any petition to enforce the spousal maintenance order from 1998.
The court determined that the husband stopped making spousal maintenance payments as a result of the oral agreement.
Accordingly, the court ruled that it would uphold the oral agreement between the parties. As such, the court concluded that the wife was not eligible for unpaid maintenance payments. The court reasoned that the wife waived her right to receive maintenance. When she did not try to enforce the maintenance provision of the divorce judgment, that failure constituted a waiver. The court further reasoned that, since the wife did seek to enforce the child support provision, she knew her rights. The court ultimately concluded the wife’s failure to enforce the maintenance order demonstrated her intent to uphold the oral agreement.
Syracuse spousal maintenance attorney Richard J. Bombardo discussed how this case should put other recent New York divorcees on notice.
As he explained, “in any post-divorce scenario, it is essential to avoid making an agreement without consulting a lawyer.” Indeed, Bombardo underscored, “entering into an oral agreement without considering the implications can have lasting effects.” It is extremely important to consider the power a person’s words can have after a divorce. When spouses have a conversation and reach any type of agreement, a New York court can uphold that agreement. Accordingly, one should be careful in discussing post-divorce issues like maintenance with an ex-spouse. Doing so ultimately may constitute a legal agreement.
Contact Bombardo Law Office, P.C. today.