Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on Long Island in many communities. One family
had already resolved their
contested divorce case and had agreed to list their home for sale at $1,399,000 which was
the listing price just before the hurricane hit Long Island on October
29, 2012. The ex-wife had exclusive occupancy of the house and the ex-husband
was obligated to pay 1/2 of certain charges until January 1, 2013. The
divorce agreement had a schedule of 5% price reductions to be followed if the house was
not in contract within stated periods.
The storm did extensive and substantial damage to the interior and exterior
of the home. The ex-husband due to the major damage and the immediate
decline in the real estate market for waterfront property wanted the house
sold immediately "as is" without performing repairs. The ex-wife
instead engaged contractors for repairs, hired a public adjuster and was
slow to decrease the price of the home which eventually sold for $500,000
plus an insurance reimbursement of $250,000.
The ex-husband claimed that Hurricane Sandy was an unforeseen event that
made it impossible to continue listing the house at prices that the real
estate market would not support. He also proved that the ex-wife did not
let him in to inspect the home for six months after the storm and did
not seek his approval for any of the repairs, hiring of contractors or
the public adjuster. The ex-husband wanted to be relieved of the obligation
to pay house charges incurred after the storm due to the ex-wife's
failure to cooperate as referenced in the
The Court reduced the ex-husband's obligations finding that the storm
was an event with unforeseen, unpredictable and devastating consequences
that permitted the divorce agreement to be modified. The Court reduced
the obligations of the ex-husband from 50% to 25%.
The moral of this story is that communication and cooperation are critically
necessary to show good faith if you are going to seek to enforce your
settlement agreement. Events can occur that could not have been predicted
and the Court will look at what you said, wrote and did to determine what
is just and equitable.