By Mike Stetzer
The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled on a rather unusual agreement between divorcing parties.
According to court records, Bernard and Vergestene Cooper of Waterloo, Iowa, were married for nearly 30 years when Vergestene discovered that her husband was seeing another woman. She confronted Bernard with the information, a scenario that usually signals the beginning of divorce.
In this case, Bernard convinced Vergestene not to end their marriage.
After what were probably some significant negotiations, in May of 2000, both Bernard and Vergestene reconciled; however, they did so on paper. Bernard signed documentation stating that if any further "indiscretions" on his part led to separation or divorce, he would accept full responsibility.
In the event that such indiscretions came to light, Bernard agreed to pay $2,600 in annual expenses to support Vergestene and their youngest daughter, allowing for increases based on raises he might have received at work.
In 2005, despite his signature on a written agreement promising to change his ways, Bernard moved out of the family home and informed his wife that he had continued to see the woman he was seeing in 2000.
Vergestene had had enough and decided to file for divorce. As part of her filing, she submitted the notarized agreement that she had made with her husband following the discovery of his first affair.
Bernard and Vergestene had initially filed for a no fault divorce, designed to speed cases where both parties are in agreement through the court system. In this case, the agreement included the post-affiar contract that Bernard initially agreed to but later disputed.
The district court ruling on the couple’s divorce closely adhered to much of that agreement. Bernard, having second thoughts, appealed the established settlement and said that the district court relied to heavily on the agreement between he and his wife and not enough on other factors.
The matter made its way all the way to the Iowa Supreme court, reports Darwin Danielson for Radio Iowa. In their ruling, the Court says that the post-affair agreement was based on Bernard’s promise of fidelity. The case is disqualified from being considered in a no fault divorce case, that process being designed to keep the courts "out of the complex web of interpersonal relationships and the inevitable he-said-she-said battles that would arise in contracts that can be enforced only through probing the nature of the marital relationship."
In other words, the Coopers will need to fight this out in court, which seems to be Bernard’s preference at this point, despite his earlier agreement.
The High Court has ruled the post-affair agreement unenforceable under the terms of a no fault divorce, and the case has been sent back down to the lower court. Now, both parties will need to present their views on what an equitable division of the property involved in the case would be, and the notarized promise of fidelity will not be considered.
Source: Radio Iowa