The Iowa Supreme Court says a post-affair agreement signed by an eastern Iowa couple can’t be used in divorce proceedings. Court records show Bernard and Vergestene Cooper of Waterloo had been married for 28 years when Vergestene discovered Bernard was involved in an affair.
Bernard wanted the marriage to continue and in May of 2000 agreed to some promises that were written down and signed by both. Bernard, a school administrator, agreed in the document that if any of his "indiscretions" lead to separation or divorce — he would accept full responsibility. And he agreed to pay $2,600 in expenses in support of his wife and youngest daughter, with increases based on his annual raises.
About five years later, Bernard moved out of their home and admitted that he had continued his prior affair. Vergestene filed for a divorce and included the notarized agreement Bernard had signed after the affair was first discovered. The district court ruling on the divorce settlement closely followed many of the terms of that agreement. Bernard appealed the settlement and distribution of property saying the district court relied to much on the agreement.
The Iowa Supreme Court says the agreement was based on Bernard remaining faithful and says Iowa’s no fault divorce law was designed to keep the courts "out of the complex web of interpersonal relationships and the inevitable he-said-she-said battles that would arise in contracts that can be enforced only through probing of the nature of the marital relationship."
For that reason, the High Court said the post-affair agreement was unenforceable, and sent the divorce case back to the lower court for an equitable dividing of the property without regard to the agreement.