Terrence Howard and his ex-wife Michelle Ghent were divorced back in 2012; however, the two were recently back in court. This time, the dispute was over the couple’s marital settlement agreement. According to the settlement agreement, Ghent would receive $5,800 per month in spousal support plus a percentage of Howard’s future earnings. Given Howard’s success as an actor in films such as Hustle & Flow, and his most recent success as the star of the popular television series Empire, the monthly alimony award does not seem unreasonable. However, given that the marriage between Howard and Ghent only lasted 13 months, this award was very favorable to Ghent to say the least. Additionally, the provision of the settlement agreement awarding Ghent a percentage of Howard’s future earning was also very unusual.
Howard agreed to the terms of the settlement agreement initially However, Howard recently petitioned a California court to set aside the agreement. During a four day hearing on the issue, Howard and his attorney presented evidenced to the court proving that he was coerced into signing the marital settlement agreement. Specifically, Howard claimed that he only agreed to the terms of the agreement because Ghent pressured him into signing the agreement by threatening to publicly release embarrassing videos of Howard as well as potentially damaging details about Howard’s sex life. After hearing the evidence, Judge Thomas Trent Lewis determined Howard did not sign the agreement voluntarily, but only signed the agreement due to duress. Because the court found the agreement was executed under duress, the court set aside and nullified the agreement. Now that the agreement has been set aside, Howard and Ghent must now come to a new agreement settling the issues of property division and spousal support or ask the court to settle these issues.
Although California law and Georgia law concerning divorce varies in many ways, both states allow couples to settle the issues of divorce, such as child support, child custody, alimony and property division by voluntarily entering into marital settlement agreements. The operative word in voluntarily. In the same way that Howard attacked his settlement agreement in California, a settlement agreement may also be attacked and potentially set aside in Georgia if the party seeking to set the agreement aside proves the agreement was the result of fraud or duress. Despite these similarities, Georgia divorce law is significantly different from California law. Thus, you should seek the advice of a Georgia family law attorney if you believe your marital settlement agreement should be set aside.