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Date: 04-28-2022

Case Style:

Augusta Martin v. Raymond Martin

Case Number: 2022-02840

Judge: Garry

Court: Supreme Court, Saratoga County, New York

Plaintiff's Attorney: Donna Wardlaw

Defendant's Attorney: Gerald Thompson

Description: Saratoga Springs, New York family law lawyers represented the parties seeking a divorce.

The parties' 2012 judgment of divorce incorporated, but did not merge, a settlement agreement. In relevant part, this agreement granted defendant (hereinafter the husband) the right to purchase from plaintiff (hereinafter the wife) her interest in the former marital home located on lakefront property in Saratoga County. The agreement provided that, within a specified time after the husband's election of that option, the parties would obtain three appraisals and the husband would pay the wife half the mean of those three appraised values, minus a commission. In December 2015, the husband notified the wife that he intended to purchase her interest. He obtained two appraisals of the property, one prepared by Thomas Jacques and another by William Moore. In April 2019, upon the husband's motion, Supreme Court, among other things, accepted the two appraisals that the husband obtained in 2015 and directed the wife to promptly obtain a third appraisal with a valuation date between December 12, 2015 and January 10, 2016. The wife then submitted an appraisal prepared by James Zasada, who set a significantly higher value for the property in an amount roughly twice the value set by the first and second appraisals. [1] In connection with a mortgage application to purchase the wife's interest, the husband obtained another appraisal prepared by Julie Moore; she opined that the value of the property, as of December 31, 2015, was at a stated sum lying between the values stated within the first and second appraisals.

As "[a] separation agreement is a legally binding and enforceable contract, subject to ordinary principles of contract construction and interpretation," where such an agreement "is clear and unambiguous on its face, the parties' intent must be discerned from the four corners of the document," although "courts are not limited to the literal language of the agreement, but may consider whatever may be reasonably implied from that literal language" (Matter of Dillon v Dillon, 155 A.D.3d 1271, 1272 [2017] [internal quotation marks and citations omitted]; see Weaver v Weaver, 198 A.D.3d 1140, 1144-1145 [2021]; Siouffi v Siouffi, 177 A.D.3d 1206, 1207 [2019]). The relevant portion of the agreement states that "the parties... shall obtain three (3) appraisals, from licensed appraisers, and the arithmetic mean of these appraisals shall be considered the fair market value of the premises." The agreement specifically requires appraisals from licensed appraisers. The parties do not appear to dispute that William Moore, Jacques and Zasada were licensed by New York. Each of those individuals submitted a report asserting that he appraised the property and opining as to its value in December 2015. Under the literal language of the agreement, the fair market value of the property shall be determined by computing the mean of those appraisals.

Martin v. Martin (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2022)

ORDERED that the order entered March 19, 2021 is modified, on the law, without costs, by reversing so much thereof as granted plaintiff's request for an order compelling defendant to pay her the previously established sum for her share of the equity in the marital home, and, as so modified, affirmed.
Martin v. Martin (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2022)

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