September 29, 1997
Appeal from Family Court, Westchester County (Scancarelli, J.).
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; Rainbow v. Swisher, 72 N.Y.2d 106, 109; see also, Mancini v Mancini, 236 A.D.2d 449; Matter of Tillim v. Fuks, 221 A.D.2d 642, 643; Lambert v. Lambert, 142 A.D.2d 557, 558). 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; Slamow v. Del Col, 174 A.D.2d 725, 727; Tantleff v Truscelli, 110 A.D.2d 240, affd 69 N.Y.2d 769). 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; see also, Laba v. Carey, 29 N.Y.2d 302; Levine v Shell Oil Co., 28 N.Y.2d 205).
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; Lambert v. Lambert, supra, at 658; Surlak v. Surlak, 95 A.D.2d 371, 381; see also, Christian v Christian, 42 N.Y.2d 63, 72; 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.
Miller, J.P., Ritter, Santucci and Florio, JJ., concur.