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The Gilmer Law Firm, PLLC

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Contested Divorce in Manhattan Results in Reduced Divorce Awards

Our New York City uncontested divorce lawyers know that while it can sometimes be difficult to get on the same page with your soon-to-be-ex, there is sometimes much to be said for the benefits of compromise.

This was illustrated recently by a long-running, high-profile, bitterly contentious Manhattan divorce involving an attorney at a well-known law firm and his wife.

The New York Daily News reports that a judge overseeing the divorce proceedings scolded the wife, saying she had "bit the hand that fed her" by initiating public attacks against her husband during the case. In doing so, the judge found, she had tangibly decreased the value of his partnership with his employer, and therefore was stripped of the majority of her $2.5 million divorce settlement.

The two parties had aggressively fought one another for years, and, according to the judge, had both demonstrated behavior that was both uncooperative, troubling and offensive. While in court, they shouted at one another, made inappropriate comments and gestures to each other and sometimes each ran out into the hallway to scream it out in the middle of the proceedings.

The pair married in January 1988. They share two children together, ages 19 and 15.

They would later say they were "never happy" together, but they didn't formally split up until 2007, when they were both placed under arrest for domestic violence of each other. The wife, a stay-at-home mother, later successfully obtained an order of protection barring the husband for their home on E. 78th Street.

The allegations of abuse were detailed in several media reports, but the criminal charges were later dropped.

However, the couple was in the news again in 2011 when, still enduring the divorce, the wife complained that her husband had refused to pay $12,000 for a hearing aid for their daughter, and yet had just purchased an engagement ring worth well over $200,000 for his Playboy playmate fiancee. The fiancee later broke off the relationship.

The judge clarified that those earlier reports were misleading; the daughter had already received hearing aids, but the argument was over who should be responsible for paying them. But the damage was already done at that point, as the initial report resulted in the attorney being placed on a sarcastic "Lawyer of the Month" list on a popular legal website.

The husband then asserted to the court that all the bad publicity had harmed his practice, causing him to suffer financially and reduce the overall value of his partnership. Once valued at roughly $5 million, he said his stake had been reduced to approximately $630,000.

The wife countered that the reduction was due to the economy and her husband's own failure to work hard.

However, the judge sided with the husband. Where the wife had initially stood to earn half of the original $5 million value of the firm, the judge determined that her public tongue-lashing of her husband would result in her share being reduced to just 17 percent.

An uncontested divorce is certainly not for everyone, but there are a fair number of instances in which this kind of proceeding can preserve not only the value of assets, but the value of each party's dignity.

If you are contemplating a divorce in New York City, call our offices at (718) 864-2011.


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