LOS ANGELES (AP) — A California appeals court on Wednesday reinstated Terrence Howard’s divorce judgment involving his second wife after finding the actor was not coerced into signing it.
The ruling could allow Michelle Ghent to claim some of Howard’s lucrative earnings from the hit Fox television series “Empire.”
The three-justice panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles ruled unanimously to reinstate the judgment that was tossed out by a lower court in 2015.
That ruling found the “Empire” star was under duress when he agreed to pay Ghent generous spousal support because he feared she would leak embarrassing information about him.
Howard claimed Ghent made the threat in a 2011 phone call. A year later, the couple agreed to a divorce settlement that paid her significant spousal support.
Wednesday’s ruling says the passage of time negates Howard’s claim that he was forced to sign the agreement. The ruling also noted Howard’s repeated attempts to reconcile with his ex-wife as showing he was not coerced into the agreement.
A phone message left for Howard’s attorney Thomas Dunlap was not immediately returned.
The 2012 agreement called for Howard to pay Ghent monthly support of $5,800 and as much as $4 million a year, depending on his earnings, including potential income from his role as Lucious Lyon on the Fox series “Empire,” which had not yet premiered.
In a deposition, Ghent denied extorting the actor and argued that he didn’t prove she had made threats in 2011 to force him to sign the agreement, her lawyers said.
She was not allowed to testify during the 2015 hearing for procedural reasons.
The hearing exposed the couple’s tumultuous relationship and led Superior Court Judge Thomas Trent Lewis to say Howard had “met his match” with Ghent and their relationship showed he was a bully and could be bullied.
“Mutual bullying does not describe a relationship in which one party’s will is subsumed by the other’s, and does not warrant setting aside a judgment as a matter of law,” the ruling Wednesday said.
The ruling also calls for Howard to pay the costs of the appeal filed by his ex-wife.
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