In this case the Supreme Court considered whether the terms of a separation agreement prepared by a non-attorney mediator were unconscionable and as a result should be voided.
A separation agreement is a document agreed to by a husband and wife in which they agree to the conditions related to how they are going to live separately, such as property division, spousal maintenance, child custody, and child support. While a separation agreement is not always a precursor to a divorce, it can be. In fact, when filing for a divorce in New York, you must state the grounds for the action. One of the possible grounds is that the couple has been separated pursuant to a separation agreement. According to Dom. Rel. Law §170 (6), if a couple signed and notarized a separation agreement, are not living together, and have abided by the terms of the agreement, then they would have grounds for divorce.
In this case Irizarry v Hayes, the couple married in 2008 and had one child. A prenuptial agreement was drafted. Both parties were aware of its terms and agreed to them, but only the husband signed it. As a result, the prenuptial agreement was not enforceable. Several years later the couple experienced problems. After meeting with a mediator, the couple signed a separation agreement in 2016. In the agreement they acknowledged that they were encouraged to seek the advice of independent counsel, that they had the opportunity to seek independent counsel and financial advisors to review the agreement, and that by signing it they agreed to file an uncontested divorce action. The husband then filed an action for an uncontested divorce, and in her answer the wife consented to the uncontested divorce. The wife also stated in the answer that she “waives her right to any additional equitable distribution of marital property insomuch as all properties ever jointly owed, shared or enjoyed, have been distributed between the parties voluntarily prior to the commencement of the action by and through their Separation and Property Settlement Agreement.” The couple received a judgement of divorce.