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Actor's divorce settlement thrown out due to coercion by ex-wife

Minnesota residents who have been through a divorce know that it is usually better to negotiate an agreement on an issue than argue it to the court and let the judge decide. But, negotiations must be undertaken in good faith. If one party proves the other used improper threats or coercion to get what they wanted in a divorce settlement, the judge can overturn the agreement later. This happened recently in court proceedings involving actor Terrence Howard and his ex-wife, Michelle Ghent.

The couple agreed on a settlement to finalize their high asset divorce in 2012. Under the agreement, Ghent was to receive a portion of Howard's future earnings, including those from the successful TV series "Empire." Howard later commenced a legal proceeding to invalidate the agreement. In a four-day court hearing he testified that the agreement was coerced by Ghent, who threatened to disclose embarrassing details about the actor to the media if he didn't agree to her terms.

The judge determined that Howard proved the agreement was coerced, saying Howard's evidence was unrebutted. Ghent had previously denied Howard's allegations, but because she failed to submit a sworn statement before the hearing she was not allowed to testify. The couple must now renegotiate the financial provisions of the divorce settlement. Whether Ghent will get any portion of Howard's earnings will depend on the outcome of those negotiations.

In an acrimonious divorce it is not uncommon for one party to attempt to secure an unfair advantage. As this recent case shows, however, this can backfire. It is always best to put emotions aside and play fair in any negotiation, or there is a risk the agreement will be undone later.

Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune, "Judge overturns Terrence Howard's divorce settlement after finding actor coerced by ex-wife," Anthony McCartney, Aug. 24, 2015

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