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Domestic Relations – PSA – Mutual Mistake

A husband loses his appeal challenging the trial court’s construction of the parties’ property settlement agreement and arguing the trial court erred in refusing to reform the “retirement assets” clause of the PSA on the basis of an alleged mutual mistake of fact as to whether distribution of wife’s retirement asset was controlled by the final PSA.
The trial court heard the parties’ testimony regarding the drafting, negotiation and execution of the PSA. Between Dec. 10 and Dec. 11, 2003, the parties vigorously negotiated and eventually ratified the version of the PSA that became final. Wife unequivocally testified that “everything was subject to negotiation” on the night of Dec. 11, 2003,and that she had no other intent with respect to the marital retirement accounts than that expressed in the final PSA. Based on her testimony, the trial court found that husband failed to establish by clear and convincing evidence that the parties were mutually mistaken with respect to the final PSA’s treatment of the APTA retirement asset. The record supports that determination, and we find no plain error inhering the trial court’s conclusion that there was no antecedent bargain on which to base reformation. We affirm the trial court’s decision dismissing husband’s rule to show cause and denying husband’s motions concerning the PSA.
Wife is entitled to an award of attorney’s fees in the court below and on appeal. Husband took legal action against wife based on his assertion that she failed to comply with the final PSA when she did not make the equalizing payment he demanded. Wife substantially prevailed in her defense to husband’s action for enforcement of what he claimed the parties intended the final PSA to provide, and the PSA stipulates he should therefore bear her associated costs. We also find no error in the trial court’s factual determination as to what will constitute “costs” under the PSA and conclude the trial court did not abuse its discretion here in awarding wife attorney’s fees.
Affirmed and remanded.
Brannon v. Brannon (Clements, J.) No. 1722-06-4, Oct. 9, 2007 Fairfax Cir. Ct. (Williams) James R. Becker for appellant; Keenan R. Goldsby for appellee. VLW 007-7-369(UP), 10 pp.

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