Ideally, divorcing spouses would not have to go to court to settle matters such as child custody, spousal maintenance and property division. Divorce litigation is a fact of life, however, and sometimes legal disputes continue well after the divorce is finalized.

Consider the recent overturning of actor Terrance Howard’s divorce settlement with his second wife, Michelle Ghent. The former spouses agreed on a settlement in 2012, but the court’s new ruling means that the terms of the divorce will have to be renegotiated.

At issue in the case was Howard’s claim that he was coerced into signing the 2012 settlement. According to him, Ghent threatened to leak private details about him that he said would likely have ended his career as an actor, so he signed the divorce agreement out of fear.

The judge also heard a recorded phone call during which Ghent threatened to sell information about the actor if he didn’t pay her. Howard reportedly sent $40,000 to her after the call.

While the ruling is a victory for the actor, the judge did not mince words regarding Howard’s character. Howard is a “bully,” said the judge, but adding that “[j]ust because you’re a bully doesn’t mean you can’t be bullied.”

At the time of a report on the case, Ghent still had a restraining order against Howard, and she has accused him of domestic violence on numerous occasions.

Incidentally, Howard has already finalized a divorce with his third wife, as well.

In New York, spouses can file for contested or uncontested divorce. While the latter tends to be less stressful and more cost-efficient, going to court to resolve a contested divorce may be necessary if the parties are unable to agree on one or more issues.

To learn more about contested and uncontested divorce, please see our divorce and family law overview.