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Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department, New York.

IN RE: Joanna SCALABRINI, Respondent, v. Gino SCALABRINI, Appellant.

Decided: September 29, 1997

Before MILLER, J.P., and RITTER, SANTUCCI and FLORIO, JJ. Daniel S. Pellegrin, White Plains, for appellant. Watkins & Cherneff, White Plains (Sam R. Watkins, Jr., of counsel), for respondent.

In a support proceeding pursuant to Family Court Act article 4, the father appeals, as limited by his brief, from so much of an order of the Family Court, Westchester County (Scancarelli, J.), entered June 5, 1996, as denied his objections to an order of the same court (Mrsich, H.E.), entered April 15, 1996, which, after a hearing, directed him to pay the principal sum of $26,616.73 to the mother for arrears of college tuition for the parties' only child.

ORDERED that the order is affirmed insofar as appealed from, without costs or disbursements.

 A separation agreement entered into by spouses in contemplation of divorce is a contract subject to principles of contract interpretation (see, Matter of Meccico v. Meccico, 76 N.Y.2d 822, 823-824, 559 N.Y.S.2d 974, 559 N.E.2d 668;  Rainbow v. Swisher, 72 N.Y.2d 106, 109, 531 N.Y.S.2d 775, 527 N.E.2d 258;  see also, Mancini v. Mancini, 236 A.D.2d 449, 654 N.Y.S.2d 604;  Matter of Tillim v. Fuks, 221 A.D.2d 642, 643, 634 N.Y.S.2d 508;  Lambert v. Lambert, 142 A.D.2d 557, 558, 530 N.Y.S.2d 223).  A court may not write into a contract conditions the parties did not insert by adding or excising terms under the guise of construction, and it may not construe the language in such a way as would distort the contract's apparent meaning (see, Matter of Tillim v. Fuks, supra, at 643, 634 N.Y.S.2d 508;  Slamow v. Del Col, 174 A.D.2d 725, 727, 571 N.Y.S.2d 335;  Tantleff v. Truscelli, 110 A.D.2d 240, 493 N.Y.S.2d 979, affd. 69 N.Y.2d 769, 513 N.Y.S.2d 113, 505 N.E.2d 623).   The words and phrases used in an agreement must be given their plain meaning so as to define the rights of the parties (see, Matter of Tillim v. Fuks, supra, at 643, 634 N.Y.S.2d 508;  see also, Laba v. Carey, 29 N.Y.2d 302, 327 N.Y.S.2d 613, 277 N.E.2d 641;  Levine v. Shell Oil Co., 28 N.Y.2d 205, 321 N.Y.S.2d 81, 269 N.E.2d 799).

 Here, the Family Court correctly determined that, pursuant to the terms of the parties' separation agreement which had been incorporated into the judgment of divorce, the father was obligated to reimburse the mother the sum of $26,616.73 for the child's college expenses.

The court properly rejected the father's attempt to reform the parties' separation agreement by way of motion (see, Darragh v. Darragh, 163 A.D.2d 648, 649, 558 N.Y.S.2d 695;  Lambert v. Lambert, supra, at 558, 530 N.Y.S.2d 223;  Surlak v. Surlak, 95 A.D.2d 371, 381, 466 N.Y.S.2d 461;  see also, Christian v. Christian, 42 N.Y.2d 63, 72, 396 N.Y.S.2d 817, 365 N.E.2d 849, 2 Foster, Freed and Brandes, Law and the Family New York § 12:62, at 1017-1022 [2d ed.] ).

The father's remaining contentions are without merit.


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