The Second Department determined the liquidated damages clause in a separation agreement constituted an unenforceable penalty. The clause provided that, upon a breach of any of the terms, child support would increase from $1500 per month to over $5000:
“[P]arties to an agreement may provide for the payment of liquidated damages upon its breach, and such damages will be upheld if (1) the amount fixed is a reasonable measure of the probable actual loss in the event of breach, and (2) the actual loss suffered is difficult to determine precisely. However, if the liquidated damages do not bear a reasonable proportion to the loss actually sustained by a breach, they will constitute an unenforceable penalty” … .
Here, the parties entered into a separation agreement … which was incorporated but not merged into the judgment of divorce. In relevant part, the agreement provided that … the defendant would pay $1,500 per month in child support until the date of the sale of the marital residence, and $5,076.29 per month thereafter. However, if at any time prior to the sale of the marital residence, the defendant was not in compliance with “all of the terms” of the agreement, then his child support obligation would be increased to $5,076.29 per month.
Contrary to the plaintiff's contention, the Supreme Court correctly determined that the subject provision, as drafted, constituted an unenforceable penalty clause … . Fitzpatrick v Fitzpatrick, 2016 NY Slip Op 04018, 2nd Dept 5-25-16
FAMILY LAW (LIQUIDATED DAMAGES CLAUSE IN SEPARATION AGREEMENT CONSTITUTED AN UNENFORCEABLE PENALTY)/CONTRACT LAW (LIQUIDATED DAMAGES CLAUSE IN SEPARATION AGREEMENT CONSTITUTED AN UNENFORCEABLE PENALTY)/DAMAGES (LIQUIDATED DAMAGES CLAUSE IN SEPARATION AGREEMENT CONSTITUTED AN UNENFORCEABLE PENALTY)