Judith and Donald Eckstein were married and had two daughters. Years later, Judith left the marital abode in the parties’ jointly owned Volkswagen van with only the clothes on her back. She did not take the children, who were 6 and 8 years old at the time. She had no funds, and the husband promptly closed the couple’s bank account. The wife was unemployed. Shortly after she left, the husband discovered her whereabouts and the location of the van and seized and secreted the van. The husband refused the wife’s request to visit or communicate with her children and refused to give her clothing. He told her that she could see the children and take her clothes only if she signed a separation agreement prepared by his lawyer. The wife contacted Legal Aid but was advised that she did not qualify for assistance.
The wife was directed to go to her husband’s lawyer’s office. A copy of a separation agreement was given to her to read. The separation agreement provided that the wife (1) give custody of the children to her husband, (2) deed her interest in their jointly owned house to the husband, (3) assign her interest in a jointly owned new Chevrolet van to her husband, and (4) waive alimony, support, maintenance, court costs, attorneys’ fees, and any right to inheritance in her husband’s estate. By the agreement, she was to receive $ 1,100 cash, her clothes, the Volkswagen van, and any furniture she desired. The wife testified that her husband told her over an interoffice phone in the lawyer’s office that if she did not sign the separation agreement, he would get her for desertion, that she would never see her children again, and that she would get nothing— neither her clothes nor the van— unless she signed the agreement.
The wife signed the separation agreement. Immediately thereafter, her clothes were surrendered to her, and she was given $ 1,100 cash and the keys to the Volkswagen van. The husband filed for divorce. The wife filed an answer seeking to rescind the separation agreement. Can she rescind the separation agreement? Eckstein v. Eckstein, 38 Md. App. 506, 379 A. 2d 757, 1978 Md. App. Lexis 324 (Court of Special Appeals of Maryland)