Massar v. Massar
279 N.J. Super. 89 (1995)

Facts:

  • The Massar’s marriage was in pretty bad shape.
  • In an agreement signed April 30, 1993, Mr. Massar agreed to vacate the marital home, and Mrs. Massar agreed not to seek termination of the marriage for any reason other than eighteen months continuous separation. Specifically, Mrs. Massar agreed as follows:
    • “Waives any claim that she may have against the husband in any action to dissolve, nullify, or terminate their marriage for desertion or any other cause of action, except no-fault divorce based upon living separate and apart for a period of 18 months or more based upon the husband’s vacating the marital premises pursuant to this agreement.”
  • H moved out as agreed, but W, contrary to their agreement, on October 1, 1993, filed a complaint for divorce on the grounds of extreme cruelty.

History:

  • After oral argument, Hon. Thomas Dilts, J.S.C. upheld the agreement and dismissed the complaint.
    • The agreement was clear, unequivocal and supported by consideration.
    • Public policy did not prohibit such agreements, but actually encouraged them.
      • It can give a couple a period of time to assess their relationship and determine whether reconciliation is possible.

Issue:
Whether agreements between spouses that limit the causes of action for a divorce are enforceable.

Holding:
Yes. Affirmed.

Reasoning:

  • “We agree with Judge Dilts that this language is clear and unequivocal and that Mrs. Massar surrendered her right to seek a divorce on any other than a no-fault basis.”
  • “Marital agreements are essentially consensual and voluntary and as a result, they are approached with a predisposition in favor of their validity and enforceability.”
  • “This State does not promote divorce and has always had a strong public interest in promoting marriage.”

Rule: Agreements between spouses that limit the causes of action for a divorce are enforceable, provided they are fair and equitable.