Reasonable Separation Agreement Executed on Understanding That Wife Would Obtain Foreign Divorce Is Invalid-Viles v. Viles

In July 1951, plaintiff and her husband, both New York residents, separated under a temporary agreement entitling the wife to 400 dollars a month for support. Soon thereafter, the husband urged his wife to divorce him, but she would not assent unless he raised her support payments to 459 dollars per month. This increase was embodied in a permanent separation agreement, executed in October 1951, which the husband signed on the oral understanding that the wife would obtain a divorce in the Virgin Islands. The wife journeyed to the Virgin Islands and, in December 1951, obtained a valid divorce decree. Ten years later the husband defaulted on the monthly support payments due under the permanent separation agreement. The wife’s suit to recover these sums was dismissed on the ground that the support agreement was illegal. On appeal to the New York Court of Appeals, held, affirmed, three judges dissenting. The oral understanding had a direct tendency to dissolve the marriage in contravention of New York law; therefore the affiliated written separation agreement was invalid.