Parties agree on divorce settlement terms. Husband will pay wife $5200 per month for permanent maintenance. There were other monetary terms related to the children. There were property division terms.
He executed a trust agreement. He would transfer to a trustee certain described property, including real estate. This was for the purpose of securing his obligations. The trust agreement gave the trustee broad powers to sell, lease or invest the trust.
Three years later, husband returned to court. He wanted to vacate the settlement agreement. He said that he had been under duress when he signed the agreement. He said that wife had threatened to expose his affair. This left him with no free will to avoid signing the agreement. Facts about the basis of the duress came out in court now.
Private detectives employed by wife or her attorneys forcibly broke into an apartment. They took photographs of husband and another woman. The circumstances of the occurrence and the photographs were intended to cause great embarrassment to husband and the other woman.
Husband alleged that wife thereafter expressly threatened to publicize the photographs. She intended to sue the other woman for alienation of affections. By means calculated to greatly embarrass husband, the other woman, and the other woman’s family.
Husband wanted to avoid the embarrassment to himself and to the woman. He agreed to sign the settlement agreement. But, it caused him much distress, he argued. The trial court did not believe that this was the type of duress that could vacate a settlement agreement. Husband appealed.
The Appellate Court said that wife’s threat to expose husband’s affair was merely potentially embarrassing. It did not deprive him of his free will in signing the settlement agreement.
Kaplan v. Kaplan, 25 Ill.2d 181