Why a TV Producer’s Ex-Wife Couldn’t Pursue Him for Fraud During Their Divorce

The creator of a series of cops-and-lawyers weekly TV dramas was in the news headlines recently, but the courtroom in question was not a fictional scene from one of his successful shows. Instead, a (very non-fictional) California appeals court issued a ruling related to the producer’s divorce case that closed the door on a fraud lawsuit the man’s ex-wife had been attempting to litigate.

While the producer’s case played out in California, you may find yourself wondering, “Is there such a thing as a fraud claim related to divorce in Maryland and, if so, what should I do if I find myself facing such a case?” Whenever you are going through divorce, or any legal action related to your divorce, one of the keys to being as successful as possible is to be sure you have an experienced Maryland family law attorney on your side to give you the answers you need to all the questions you may have.

In Maryland, there is a very specific way in which the law and the courts look at fraud that is tied to a divorce proceeding. Specifically, the law divides this kind of fraud into two categories: intrinsic fraud and extrinsic fraud. In this context, intrinsic fraud is fraud that is tied to issues pertaining to the original divorce litigation, or things that were (or could have been) litigated in that case. Extrinsic fraud means something that was so hidden that it prevented the parties from litigating that issue in a meaningful way and prevented the court from making a complete ruling because the hidden issue was never presented to the fact-finder. This latter type of fraud is considered more egregious.

In the California TV producer’s case, his ex-wife was litigating because, she alleged, the husband improperly hid assets. She agreed to a divorce settlement in 2003 that showed the producer’s courtroom shows were worth only about $4 million. Very shortly after the wife agreed and the divorce was finalized, the wife read in the Los Angeles Times that the husband just inked a new billion-dollar deal with the TV network that aired his shows. Frustrated, the wife sought to reopen the divorce on the basis that the husband and his financial advisors had improper withheld information about the contract.

To give you an idea how a case like that might play out in this state, back in 2018, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals faced a case involving a spouse who allegedly hid assets. The court in that case ruled that case that a spouse’s alleged acts of hiding assets are intrinsic fraud, not extrinsic fraud. Because it was intrinsic fraud, the law prevented the courts from considering the fraud claim.

So, what does all that mean for you? It means that, if you and your legal team have worked hard to craft a fair and reasonable resolution to your divorce case, and both spouses ultimately agree to approve this resolution and end the divorce litigation, your spouse cannot haul you back into court and attempt to re-litigate things already resolved by the settlement solely because you allegedly hid assets. It takes more than that to undo a final resolution ending your divorce action.

Whatever issues you’re facing and wherever you are in the divorce process, we are here to help. Maryland family law attorney Anthony A. Fatemi has been diligently representing spouses, parents and others in Maryland family law cases for many years. To learn more, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

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