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JAMES S. NIGRO v. MARY LOU RAGO NIGRO (03/10/88)

filed: March 10, 1988.

JAMES S. NIGRO, JR., APPELLEE,
v.
MARY LOU RAGO NIGRO, APPELLANT



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County, Civil at No. A06-85-60891-D-03.

COUNSEL

Joseph S. Britton, Langhorne, for appellant.

Edward J. Weiss, Assistant District Attorney, Media, for appellee.

Cavanaugh, Rowley and Montemuro, JJ.

Author: Montemuro

[ 371 Pa. Super. Page 627]

In this divorce action, appellant Mary Lou Rago Nigro appeals from a January 22, 1987 order of the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas declaring valid a 1976 property settlement agreement entered into by and between appellant and her husband, appellee James S. Nigro, Jr. The court found in favor of appellee and decreed that the agreement barred all claims raised by appellant in her counterclaim to appellee's complaint in divorce.

On March 21, 1985, appellee filed a complaint against appellant seeking a divorce on the grounds that the parties' marriage was irretrievably broken. Appellant answered, admitting all of appellee's allegations. Appellant also counterclaimed, asserting additional claims for divorce, child support, custody, equitable distribution, alimony, alimony pendente lite, spousal support, counsel fees and costs, and continued maintenance of beneficiary designations on appellee's existing life and health insurance policies. Appellee raised as a defense to the counterclaim a property settlement agreement executed by the parties on July 15, 1976. The comprehensive agreement contained provisions concerning custody of the parties' minor daughter, child support, personal property distribution, and various other economic issues. Further, the parties agreed to release their rights to seek alimony, counsel fees or expenses in any divorce action.

Appellant served upon appellee interrogatories which sought information on the claims ancillary to the divorce. Appellee then filed a motion for a protective order pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 4012 and averred that it was unnecessary to answer the interrogatories because all matters ancillary to the divorce had been resolved by the 1976 property settlement agreement. Appellant responded that the agreement was invalid and thereafter filed a petition to set it aside. On October 31, 1985, the trial court held a consolidated

[ 371 Pa. Super. Page 628]

    hearing on the petitions.*fn1 The hearing was not completed and was continued to a later date. On November 25, 1985, appellee filed a nunc pro tunc petition for declaratory relief and requested the court to make a judgment that the property settlement agreement was "valid and binding upon the parties and constitute[d] a bar to all claims raised by [appellant] in her Counterclaim." Appellant responded to the petition for declaratory relief, again claiming that the agreement was invalid. In new matter appellant averred that she was not advised by counsel when she signed the agreement, that the agreement did not make a "fair and reasonable provision" for appellant or the parties' child, that appellee did not fully disclose his assets to appellant at the time the parties executed the agreement and that he had in fact misrepresented his financial situation to induce appellant to sign the agreement, that appellant signed the agreement under duress, and that appellee had failed to abide by the terms of the agreement.

On March 6, 1986, the court resumed the October 1985 hearing and also considered appellee's petition for declaratory relief. On July 21, 1986, the court issued an opinion with findings of fact, a discussion of the law, and conclusions of law. Attached to the opinion was an order stating that "declaratory judgment is hereby entered against [appellant], and it is hereby Ordered and Decreed that the July 15, 1976 Property Settlement Agreement entered into by and between them is valid and continues in full effect, and is a bar to all claims raised by [appellant] in her counterclaim in this divorce action."

In accordance with Pa.R.C.P. 227.1, appellant filed a motion for post-trial relief from the July 21st opinion and order.*fn2 On December ...


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