“Today’s ruling … recognizes that divorce decrees signed with a proverbial gun to one’s head cannot withstand judicial scrutiny,” Howard’s lawyer Brian Kramer tells PEOPLE in a statement of Judge Thomas Trent Lewis’ decision to throw out a spousal support agreement that was deemed to have been signed under duress.
Howard – who had been contacting Ghent despite having a restraining order filed against him after getting physically violent with her during a fight (something he says he did in “self defense”) – claims Ghent forced him to sign the spousal support agreement under the threat of blackmail, something Ghent’s lawyers deny happened.
“In May 2012 – well before Mr. Howard was cast on Empire – Michelle and Mr. Howard participated in a voluntary mediation that resulted in a binding settlement,” Ghent’s lawyers Sa’id Vakili and John A. Schlaff tell PEOPLE in a statement. “As part of that settlement, Michelle waived all legal claims against Mr. Howard for his abuse of her and agreed not to disclose any details about their marriage.”
“Nonetheless,” continues the statement. “In Mr. Howard’s continuing effort to punish Michelle for leaving him, he refused to honor the settlement payments – while still stalking her, threatening suicide, and begging for her to take him back even after he was remarried in October 2013 – forcing Michelle to go to court over a dozen times to get him to pay the ORIGINAL spousal support so she could move on with her life.”
Monday’s ruling comes after multiple moments of tension between Judge Lewis and Howard, who frequently vented his frustrations while on the stand Aug. 17.
“Terrence Howard is a bully,” Lewis said while delivering his verdict. “[But] just because you’re a bully, doesn’t mean you can be bullied.”
Now, Howard and Ghent – whom Judge Lewis acknowledges have a “difficult relationship” – must return to court to work out a new spousal support agreement.
“I could not be any more pleased by today’s ruling,” Howard, who recently divorced his third wife Mira Pak, tells PEOPLE in a statement. “I am grateful to my [attorney and his team,] whose skill and tireless efforts enabled me to secure this terrific ruling from the Court.”