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Marital Dissolution Agreements

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CaseGuy Hawkins v. Diana Le-Hawkins

Issues:  Can a Marital Dissolution Agreement be enforced if it was filed in regards to a legal separation rather than a pending divorce? Is a divorce valid in light of a challenge to an MDA?

Facts:  Husband and Wife entered into an MDA while Wife’s complaint for legal separation was pending. Wife dismissed her complaint, and Husband commenced an action for absolute divorce. Wife contested the divorce and the validity of the MDA under the circumstances. The trial court found the MDA was valid because it was entered into without fraud or duress. Wife appeals, contending that the MDA does not comply with Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-103, which expressly directs that “a divorce may be granted on the grounds of irreconcilable differences where there has been a contest or denial, if a properly executed marital dissolution agreement is presented to the court.”

Appellate Decision: The intermediate court affirmed in favor of Husband and enforced the MDA: “The language of the MDA clearly reveals that the parties expressly contemplated a divorce and that the agreement would be incorporated in any decree of divorce that may ensue.”

Review Granted:  February 13, 2015.

Prediction:  Ben thinks the Supreme Court will affirm for the reasons provided by the intermediate court.