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The significant, substantive issue in this case is whether the trial court erred in arriving at a division of marital property that did not invoke an antenuptial agreement which had been adjusted by a later agreement. There is a threshold question, involving legal and judicial ethics, which is whether this case must be reversed and remanded for a new trial because of misconduct of counsel for the wife and the court in engaging in an ex parte hearing from which counsel for the husband and his client were excluded. A cross-appeal has been taken by the wife, alleging error in the failure of the trial court to award attorney fees and costs to her in connection with this divorce action and other ancillary litigation. We hold the ex parte hearing clearly was improper and cannot be condoned under the Canons of Judicial Conduct and ethical rules governing the bar. However, we hold no reversible error should be attributed to the conduct of that hearing since it did not impact any substantial rights of the husband. With respect to the question on the merits, however, we hold the trial court was obliged to enforce the agreements of the parties to the marriage, at least in the absence of a cogent rationale justifying its refusal to apply those agreements. We reverse and remand for a new trial on the division of the marital property. Because of this disposition, we do not address the wifes cross-appeal with respect to the propriety of the denial by the trial court of attorney fees and costs to the wife. - Page 733

Professional & Technical
March 25
LawApp Publishers
Innodata Book Distribution Services Inc

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