Court of Appeals Unanimously Rejects Ex-Husband’s Claims for a Divorce Do-Over

  • April 30, 2012

The New York Court of Appeals, the State’s highest court, today unanimously ruled in favor of ECBAWM client Laura Blank and ordered the dismissal of her ex-husband’s claims to reform their long-settled divorce agreement. In Simkin v. Blank, Ms. Blank’s ex-husband brought claims against her in which he sought to reform their years-old divorce settlement agreement and recoup millions of dollars from her on the basis that one of the couple’s major assets was an account with now-revealed fraudster Bernie Madoff. The Court of Appeals, reversing the decision of the Appellate Division, First Department, and reinstating the ruling of the trial court, rejected Mr. Simkin’s claims based on both mutual mistake and unjust enrichment. Writing for the Court, Justice Graffeo explained, “This situation, however sympathetic, is more akin to a marital asset that unexpectedly loses value after dissolution of the marriage.” She went on to reason, “Viewed from a different perspective, had the Madoff account or other asset retained by husband substantially increased in worth after the divorce, should wife be able to claim entitlement to a portion of the enhanced value? The answer is obviously no.” ECBAWM attorney Richard Emery argued before the Court of Appeals in February 2012, and was joined on the briefs by ECBAWM attorney Adam Pulver. Commenting on the decision, Mr. Emery explained, “You just can’t go back and take what is completely settled in marital relations and throw your former spouse into a state of appeal when something went wrong with your own choice of how you wanted to handle your own money.”

The decision is available here.