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Johnston v. Johnston

Court of Appeals of Maryland
465 A.2d 436 (1983)


J. Edward Johnston Jr. (plaintiff) filed for divorce from his wife, Helen Johnston (defendant). Prior to the filing, Edward and Helen each obtained independent counsel and negotiated a settlement agreement in contemplation of their divorce to provide for the support and maintenance of Helen and their children, as well as the transfer of property interests and the creation of various trusts. The agreement was offered into evidence at the divorce hearing and incorporated into the subsequent divorce decree. A non-merger clause in the agreement provided that, notwithstanding the incorporation, the agreement was not to be merged in the decree but rather was intended to survive the judgment and be binding upon the Johnstons. Several years later, Edward filed a petition to set aside and void the agreement based on the claim that Edward was not mentally competent to sign the document at the time of execution. Helen filed a motion to strike Edward’s petition, arguing that their children were necessary parties to the action due to the children’s reliance upon the terms in the agreement. Additionally, Helen sought clarification of Edward’s mental incapacity claim. The trial court granted Helen’s motion to strike and held that Edward had failed to show that the agreement was based on fraud, mistake, or irregularity, as required by state law. Edward appealed. The intermediate appellate court affirmed. The Maryland Court of Appeals granted certiorari to review.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Couch, J.)

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