Trying to kill ex-husband with hatchet violates separation agreement's covenant of good faith, state appeals court says
According to the Massachusetts Appeals Court, a woman attacked her ex-husband with a hatchet outside his dental practice in 2015. “In the pandemonium of the attack,” the appeals court said, “the wife accused the husband of ruining her ‘reunification plans’ that were ‘in the works’ for the children.” Image from Shutterstock.
Updated: A husband does not have to make continued payments to his ex-wife under a separation agreement after she tried to kill him with a hatchet, the Massachusetts Appeals Court has ruled.
The appeals court affirmed a trial judge’s ruling for Mark Schenkman in a breach-of-contract lawsuit by his ex-wife, Julie Rabinowitz.
Schenkman wasn’t obligated to make payments under the contract because his ex-wife violated the covenant of good faith and fair dealing that applies to separation agreements, the trial judge found. The Massachusetts Appeals Court found no error.
“On the unique facts of this case, and considering the egregious nature of the wife’s conduct, the judge could conclude that this case constitutes one of those rare situations that warrants revisiting the issue of property division,” the Massachusetts Appeals Court said.
Schenkman had been granted sole legal and physical custody of the couple’s four children in a 2013 divorce judgment. Other issues, including alimony, child support and the division of assets were deferred for trial. Schenkman and Rabinowitz resolved those issues in a separation agreement in March 2014 that was incorporated into an amended judgment of divorce.
The separation agreement required Schenkman to pay $212,000 over five years in equal monthly payments totaling a little more than $3,500. A life insurance policy would provide money to Rabinowitz in the event of Schenkman’s death.
Schenkman made payments for 17 months, through Aug. 1, 2015.
Later that month, Rabinowitz attacked Schenkman with a hatchet outside his dental practice.
“In the pandemonium of the attack,” the Massachusetts Appeals Court said, “the wife accused the husband of ruining her ‘reunification plans’ that were ‘in the works’ for the children.”
Rabinowitz pleaded guilty in December 2015 to charges that included armed assault with intent to murder.
“A fact finder could conclude from this evidence that the wife tried to thwart the consequences of the separation agreement by killing the husband, accelerating the property division through the life insurance policy, and obtaining custody of the children,” the Massachusetts Appeals Court said. “In the judgment of the fact finder, such precipitous and violent conduct could be viewed as a breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.”
Updated Nov. 28 at 9:11 a.m. to correct that the ruling was by the Massachusetts Appeals Court.