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High Asset divorce settlement overturned by judge

Many Ohio residents are fans of the hit television series "Empire," which begins its second season this fall. One of the stars of that show is the Academy Award-nominated actor Terrence Howard. The actor has made headlines of late not for his work onscreen, but due to an unusual outcome in his High Asset divorce case.

Howard divorced his second wife in 2012. Within that divorce, the parties signed a settlement that gave the actor's former wife a share of his salary from "Empire." Howard later challenged that settlement, claiming in court that he only agreed to the terms within because he was being placed under extreme duress. When the matter recently went before a judge, the court agreed and ordered that the existing divorce settlement be overturned. The parties will now have to return to the negotiating table to structure a new property division settlement.

In making that decision, the court reviewed both evidence and testimony. Howard presented a recording of a phone call in which his former wife threatened to sell private information to the media if she did not receive a payment of $40,000 by the end of that day. That payment was issued by Howard's accountant and in court was referred to as "hush money." Among the information that might have been sold were recordings of Howard engaged in explicit phone conversations with other women, as well as a video of him dancing in the nude.

As this High Asset divorce case demonstrates, all settlement agreements must be entered into willingly, and absent any form of coercion or duress. When an agreement is signed while one party is placed under significant stress, the entire document can be rendered void, as was the case in this example. For those in Ohio who feel that their own divorce settlement was structured under similar circumstances, it is important to understand one's rights under the law.

Source: ABC News, "Judge Overturns Actor Terrence Howard's Divorce Settlement", Anthony McCartney, Aug. 24, 2015

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