Duffy v. Duffy
881 A.2d 630 (D.C. 2005)


  • The parties were married in 1977 and adopted a daughter in 1995.
  • In 1998, husband wanted a divorce, and he and wife negotiated a separation agreement.
  • The terms were reduced to writing, signed, and sent to wife’s attorney in the form of a letter in 2001.
  • The attorney prepared the agreement, incorporating the terms in the letter, but the husband never executed it. However, he abided by the terms until November 2002.
  • In November 2002, husband unilaterally reduced his child support payments from $5,000 per month to $2,000 per month.
    • Husband expressed concern that the Letter did not address what would happen to his child support obligation in the event he lost his job, or had other financial constraints.
    • There were also concerns regarding his failure to seek independent counsel.

The trial court enforced the agreement.

Whether the letter signed by both parties containing separation agreement was enforceable contract.


The Letter was complete as to the essential terms of the parties’ divorce, and that appellant’s course of conduct for over a year—from signing the Letter, to abiding by its terms, to stating in his e-mail communications his desire that any formalized agreement incorporate the terms in the Letter—demonstrates his intent to be bound by the conditions set forth in that agreement.

Rule: In the absence of fraud, duress, concealment or overreaching, a separation agreement is presumptively valid and binding no matter how ill-advised a party may have been in executing it.