Divorcee Bites the Hand that Feeds Her

109508593611101CDPWe all know that it is unwise to “bite the hand that feeds you”. What that means in divorce litigation is that it would be foolish to tip off Revenue Canada or the IRS that your spouse is cheating them, at least until you have your share of the family property and your legal relationship is severed.

Unfortunately, Janice Schacter of New York either didn’t get that advice or simply ignored it , which is more likely. Janice and her husband, Ira Schacter’s divorce was far from low-key, in part because Janice, in her anger, posted unflattering stories about her estranged husband on a variety of websites. Eventually, the New York Post and other publications picked up on the acrimonious divorce and Mr. Schacter’s reputation as a wealthy and successful partner of a major New York law firm, went “down the toilet”.

Their divorce litigation began in 2007 after each of them was arrested for assaulting the other. During the course of the proceedings Mr. Schacter filed 40 separate motions, while his wife filed 26. At the end of their divorce wars, Ira Schacter had spent about $2.3 million on legal fees, $500,000 on expert’s reports, and $460,000 on criminal and child protection investigations. Ms. Schacter owes two law firms several hundred thousand dollars, monies they are suing her for.

Part of Janice Schacter’s “defence” were regular calls to the police, who attended at her husband’s home one hundred times. He was also the subject of seven separate child protection investigations.

However, the incident that Mr. Schacter alleged led to a significant downturn in his law practice at Calwalader, Wickersham & Taft, with an accompanying decrease in the value of his law partnership interest, was an article published by the New York Post that he had purchased a $215,000 diamond engagement ring for his fiancé, but refused to pay $12,000 for his hearing impaired daughter’s hearing aids. The New York Post’s source for the story was none other than Janice Schacter!

The story caused popular website “Above the Law” to select Ira Schacter as their “Lawyer of the Month”, an accolade that was anything but
prestigious. As it turned out, by the time the story was published the hearing aids had been purchased and the issue of who should ultimately be responsible for the cost was pending before the court.

At trial, Mr. Schacter argued that his wife’s disparaging comments on the internet and in other publications led to a significant decrease in the value of his partnership interest. Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Laura Drager agreed that Ms. Schacter’s conduct contributed to the decline in Mr. Schacter’s law practice, but also found that the 2008 economic crisis was integral to his firm’s 94% decrease in revenue, particularly because the firm’s business was tied to investment banks and mortgage-backed securities. During this time-frame the firm had laid off 131 associate lawyers.

However, Ira gave as good as he got as Justice Drager set out in her Reasons:

“They each shouted and interrupted court proceedings. They made inappropriate comments and gestures to each other immediately outside the courtroom.”

She also noted that after an incident between Mr. Schacter and his daughter he was arrested and ordered to enroll in mandatory anger management classes. Justice Drager also found he made vulgar and cruel comments about his wife to the children.

Mr. Schacter called witnesses who confirmed they refused to retain him as counsel due to the negative publicity. Justice Drager remarked:

“His testimony (and others) establishes to this court that the Internet postings have been injurious to the husband’s professional standing and ability to retain clients….The wife was well within her rights to publicly raise her concerns about domestic violence. However, the wife’s incessant postings and discussions about the issue went beyond any reasonable discussion of this very serious issue.”

As a result of her findings, Janice Schacter received only 17% of her husband’s partnership interest, the sum of $855,440, while he retained 83%, amounting to a value of $4.17 million.

But Ms. Schacter has not abandoned her public pulpit. An article about her case was published in the New York Law Journal this week where she took on the trial judge, writing:

“This was about protecting her (the judge’s) career. I stood up to a judge that wouldn’t enforce court orders, follow state laws, ensure my family was safe, give me legal fees, proper discovery, experts, and then created a record to prevent an appeal.”

Methinks we haven’t heard the last from Janice Schacter.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Wife/Mother Uses 357 Magnum to Settle Scores

_DSC4179 - Version 2Linda Cooney is a woman with a 357 caliber Magnum revolver and a penchant for shooting it. To date she has shot and killed her husband, James Cooney, an event that occurred 23 years ago, and most recently in 2011, her son, Kevin Cooney, who is alive but a quadriplegic.

In the early 1990′s Linda and James Cooney were involved in what is described as a “high-conflict” divorce, rife with disputes over parenting time, contempt citations, and financial issues. Mr. Cooney was a Florida probate and tax lawyer who met Linda when she worked as a legal secretary. They married in 1979 and separated in 1987.

The court ordered Mr. Cooney to pay his wife three years of alimony and when the order expired, Ms. Cooney brought an application for continued spousal support and an order to move with their two young sons to California. Mr. Cooney opposed both motions and brought a cross application to remove custody of the children from his ex-wife on account of her “psychological instability”. He relied on examples of his ex-wife’s harassing, out-of-control behavior during the divorce proceedings and allegations in a lawsuit brought against her by a former boyfriend, who was also a lawyer. That suit settled when she accused the boyfriend of giving her herpes.

On the day of his death, James Cooney arrived at his wife’s home to pick up his sons Kevin, age 10 and Christopher, age 8, for a visit. Earlier that day Mr. Cooney had obtained a court order compelling Ms. Cooney to attend for a psychiatric assessment. Ms. Cooney’s lawyer told the jury that she shot her husband in self-defence when he attacked her with an eight inch kitchen knife.

When the police asked 11-year-old Kevin Cooney whether he saw something in his father’s hands, he said he did not. But later at the jury trial, he said he saw a “shiny object”. Court pundits say that the police investigation and evidence collection was shoddy, and Linda Cooney was acquitted, without even taking the witness stand in her own defence.

James Cooney’s family could not locate his will, however, his million dollar estate did not go to Ms. Cooney, but to his sons, although she was now their sole guardian.

Fast forward to 2011 when Linda Cooney again picked up her 357 and shot her son Kevin. Her lawyers say that she shot in self-defence when her 6’7″ son, who worked as a bouncer and doorman on the Las Vegas strip, punched her repeatedly after arguing about Kevin’s choice in girlfriends. An ongoing feud about girlfriend Karina Taylor developed after Linda Cooney called Ms. Taylor a “whore, a stripper and a skank” and advised her employer she was laundering money and selling drugs, all apparently untrue.

This time around Kevin will again play an essential role in his mother’s prosecution. He is reportedly not talking to police or cooperating with the state, although in an earlier statement he confirmed the shooting was an accident.

Meanwhile Linda Cooney has been in custody since February 2014 after her conviction for assaulting Ms. Taylor when she visited Kevin Cooney in the hospital during his recovery.

James Cooney’s family was shattered by the outcome of their son’s case and will likely be incredulous if Linda Cooney escapes justice twice, however, if Kevin testifies in her favour, that is the likely result.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

A New Way To Divorce: Conscious Uncoupling

La Spiga 2011-03-22In the wake of actress and sometime singer, Gwyneth Paltrow, and rock musician Chris Martin’s not unexpected separation, a new way to divorce has emerged.

Referred to by Ms. Paltrow as “conscious uncoupling”, the phrase prompted much hilarity and ridicule, especially by Twitterers and the entertainment media.

Salon magazine suggested her method of divorce was another of her “clueless air-headed” ideas, calling it a “woo-woo Eastern-ish” philosophy, in keeping with most of what is endorsed by Gwyneth on her website “Goop”.

But now that I have stifled my giggles, what on earth is Ms. Paltrow talking about and why, as a divorce lawyer, have I never heard of it before? I know about collaborative divorce, sharia divorce, no-fault divorce and uncontested divorce and I know that common-law marriages never end in divorce, they just end.

The brain-child of Katherine Woodward Thomas, a psychotherapist licensed in California, she offers her course, “The Art of Conscious Completion” as an online seminar, at no charge. Her method has three goals: to release the trauma of a breakup, to reclaim your power and to reinvent your life”.

Thomas’s philosophy of marriage is that it is not “the tie that binds” and in 21st century living where ones’ longevity has far eclipsed earlier centuries, it is foolish to think that people will only have one lifetime partner. She says:

“I’m a fan of marriage but recognize that most people in their lives will have two to three longtime relationships–which means one to two breakups…”

Ms. Paltrow’s celebrity endorsement of Thomas’s teachings is apparently a big surprise to her, as she admits she has never met the Paltrow-Martin clan, but who can blame her if she capitalizes on the publicity?

But not everyone is mocking Paltrow’s message. Many others believe that, despite the new-age language, Paltrow and Martin are taking control of the process and modeling a civilized way to terminate their marriage, but not their friendship and shared parental roles. In fact, they are reportedly vacationing together now.

As for me, it is naïve to think that utilizing the psycho-babble of a catchphrase like “conscious uncoupling” can eliminate the pain of rejection, the loss of a dream, and the anguish of divorce’s most innocent victims, namely, children.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

The Case for Shared Parenting

There is a groundswell of activity and energy swirling throughout North America as lawmakers take a closer look at shared parenting, also known as joint physical custody.

Despite the best efforts of dinosaur lawyers and jaded feminists to disparage a better model for parenting, shared parenting is a child-centered response to the institutionalized model of parenting that has plagued families far too long.

Based on twentieth century cultural traditions of stay-at-home moms and working dads, the maternal preference was shored up by untested psychological theories about mothers and children that unwittingly led to a template of a “visiting” parent, usually relegated to every second weekend for a total of four nights per month.

The primary caregiver model became the default position without consideration of the quality of parenting, the psychological functioning of each parent, or the history and nature of the parent/child relationship.

Good parents were lumped together with dysfunctional parents because judges relied on precedent, a straight-jacket that we now know has hurt generations of children and needlessly disempowered parents.

Later most jurisdictions added a week night visit for the non-custodial parent. Who are we kidding by using gender neutral language? It’s “Dads” that are marginalized by these entrenched legal and judicial practices.

But the tide is slowly turning as the public clamour for a more civilized way to determine custody, and social science researchers provide empirical evidence that compels a reconsideration of a parenting regime that is far past its due date.

Dr. Joan Kelly, well-known psychologist and parenting researcher, confirms the literature demonstrates numerous benefits to children when their living arrangements enable supportive and loving fathers to be actively involved in their children’s lives on a weekly and regular basis, including overnights. The outcomes for children include better psychological and behavioral adjustment, and enhanced academic performance.

She also notes that children and adolescents who have lived in a shared parenting arrangement are generally satisfied, feel loved, have less feelings of loss, and do not frame their lives through the lens of parental divorce, compared with those who have been placed in the sole custody of their mothers.

With the endorsement of 110 international research scholars, Dr. Richard Warshak recently published “Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A Consensus Report” in Psychology, Public Policy and Law 2014 Vol. 20 #1- p.46-67 which concludes that shared parenting should be the norm for children of all ages, including very young children. The consensus was that 50/50 parenting is also indicated where the logistics of the parents’ schedules are compatible with that arrangement.

Of course, it is universally accepted that deficient, negligent or abusive parents, and those that may have mental illness or substance abuse problems will rarely be candidates for shared parenting.

Public sentiment on shared parenting can be illustrated by Massachusetts’ 2004 non-binding election ballot where 85% of voters, numbering 530,000 people, agreed that children should live with both parents following divorce. In another survey of 375 people called for jury duty, 67% of them favoured shared residential parenting. (Braver et al 2011)

Presently seven States promote shared parenting including Arizona, Alaska, Oklahoma, Iowa, Kansas, Arkansas, and Wisconsin. A Florida bill for alimony reform and shared parenting was expected to pass, but was crushed by a veto from Florida’s governor. The proposed amendment sought to increase the minimum amount of parenting time from 25% to 35%.

Connecticut established a Task Force to study the issue of shared parenting, with a report expected this month. In Maryland, legislators initiated a Commission on Child Custody Decision Making with a report due in late 2014.

Canada’s Bill C-560 on shared parenting is scheduled for second reading in the House of Commons in mid-March 2014. In previous iterations of this bill there has been non-partisan support from the Liberals, Conservatives and the Green Party, the latter two include shared parenting in their platforms.

For those who ignore the burgeoning research and say the jury is still out, or those who continue to rely on the tired refrain that shared parenting is impossible with the rancour that accompanies divorce, a new day is dawning.

It can’t come too quickly for Canada’s children.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Russian Billionaire Who Bankrolled Sochi Olympics Faces Ugly Divorce

GEO#1Natalia Potanina has found justice in an American courtroom in the latest twist in her divorce from Russian billionaire Vladimir Potanin. After 30 years of marriage with three children, Ms. Potanina is struggling to locate her husband’s assets so that she can return to Russia and obtain a court order for half of them, in accordance with Russian family law.

A United States federal court judge in Brooklyn has ruled that two American executives for private equity firm Altpoint are compelled to testify with regards to investments made by Mr. Potanin, age 53, and his company Interros.

Interros, a conglomerate headquartered in Moscow, has interests that include mining, finance, agriculture, tourism, energy, retail and real estate.

Chief Financial Officer Eric Chan and Managing Director Yuki Narula have also been ordered to produce 13 categories of relevant financial documents including all emails between them, Mr. Potanin and Interros.

Ms. Potanina told the U.S. Court that her husband warned her that if she did not accept his verbal terms of settlement, she would get nothing from him.

For his part, the billionaire says the couple did not separate a year ago as his wife insists, but seven years ago, and that he has already made his wife a wealthy woman. He also alleges that he and his wife divvied up his assets some time ago, a statement denied by her.

With wealth estimated at $14 billion, Mr. Potanin has a reputation for philanthropy and endorsed Bill Gates’ and Warren Buffet’s “Giving Pledge” promising to give a significant portion of his net worth to the poor in undeveloped countries.

His spokesman recently announced that he had divested himself of most of his assets in order to fulfill his pledge, however, he still has plenty of money for extravagance, as it was reported that he paid $95,000 to a New York restauranteur for a 4 pound white truffle in October last year, the most expensive truffle in the world.

Ms. Potanina’s lawyers say the billionaire’s charitable donations are a scam intended to hide his wealth and deprive his wife of her share.

The parties are scheduled to be in court in Moscow later this month, a hearing that will no doubt be tainted by Russia’s infamous and corrupt judiciary.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Judge “Friends” Wife While Hearing Her Divorce Case

P1010870 - Version 2She’s a Facebook fan and also a Florida judge who thinks its OK to “friend” a litigant in the middle of her divorce trial. No, I’m not kidding!

Sandra Chace and her husband Robert Loisel had just finished their divorce hearing and were awaiting the Judge’s decision, when Sandra received a request from the Judge to become a Facebook friend.

Ms. Chace immediately contacted her lawyer who recommended she not accept the request, so she ignored it.

Shortly thereafter the Judge handed down her Reasons. To Ms. Chace’s dismay the decision was highly favourable to her husband. Notably, the Judge left her responsible for the majority of the family debt and granted her spouse extremely generous alimony.

After learning this Judge had previously contacted litigants through social media and had been compelled to recuse herself, Ms. Chace’s lawyer brought a motion before her alleging a reasonable apprehension of bias based on her internet overture to his client and his client’s rejection of it.

The protocol for applications alleging bias is to go back to the Judge who made the order and have him or her review the situation.

Several years ago I brought a similar application before a judge in the British Columbia Supreme Court on the basis that his remarks during the hearing could lead a reasonable person to believe he was biased against my client.

At the time I thoroughly researched the law on bias and was not surprised to see that in 99.9% of cases, the judge determined there was no bias. That’s the finding this Judge made as well.

Ms. Chace then appealed the decision to the Court of Appeal who disagreed with the Facebook friendly trial judge. The Appeal Court found that Ms. Chace was caught “between the proverbial rock and a hard place”. She was trapped in a difficult position: Should she respond to the Judge’s ex parte communication or ignore it and risk offending the judge?

The Appeal Judges quashed the order of the trial judge and remitted the matter back to the trial court. Ms. Chace can only hope she does better the second time around.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

BC Court of Appeal Allows New Hearing for “Game-Playing” Litigant

BarristerThis week’s decision from the British Columbia Court of Appeal in Ghavim v. Jamali provides a stark picture of how a family law litigant can use the system to thwart a “just, speedy and inexpensive” resolution to a family law case.

The parties were married for 20 years, immigrating from Iran to British Columbia. The marriage broke down in 2009 and in September of 2010 Ms. Ghavim filed a divorce action seeking division of property and child and spousal support. There were several interlocutory applications and a five-day trial was set for November 2012.

Ms. Ghavim’s lawyer, in an effort to bring an end to the issues in the case, set down a hearing in August 2012, called a summary trial. A summary trial is an expedited hearing to resolve a case, short of a lengthy trial. Family law lawyers are encouraged to bring finality to family law cases to decrease costs and the emotional wear and tear of protracted litigation.

On the appointed date in August, Mr. Jamali showed up without a lawyer and sought an adjournment to obtain counsel. I have never seen a Court refuse an adjournment application brought by an in-person litigant and the case was adjourned for a month.

When the case began in September, Mr. Jamali, not surprisingly, still had no lawyer, but the case proceeded, as it should have. He did bring an interpreter with him.

On a summary trial the evidence before the court consists of affidavits, transcripts of other sworn testimony, and relevant documents. Each of the parties filed two affidavits.

The wife alleged her husband had a luxury apartment in Tehran valued at $1 million dollars that provided rental income of $7,000 per month. Her husband brought a lease agreement to court that showed a rental income of $50.00 a month. He also said the apartment had only $50,000 in equity with a fair market value of $200,000 to $300,000. Ms. Ghavim asserted that the rental agreement was a forgery, a recurring feature in cases like this one.

The parties sold their home in the Lower Mainland in 2009, each receiving a portion of the net sale proceeds of $259,000, however, Mr. Jamali’s previous lawyer had given an extra amount from his trust account to Mr. Jamali, although he had no authority to do so. That money, of course, was long gone and the judge voiced his criticism of the lawyer’s questionable actions.

During the hearing the judge asked questions of Mr. Jamali in order to elicit the testimony he would need to make a decision. Notably, the judge queried him with respect to the deposits in his bank account. He was utterly unable to explain the source of the funds.

The judge asked to see Mr. Jamali’s wallet, noting that for someone who had no income he was carrying a large amount of cash. Of course, Mr. Jamali had an answer for that: it was money to pay the interpreter. As an aside, I am puzzled that Canadian immigrants like Mr. Jamali who cannot speak English manage to obtain status in Canada, but that’s for another day.

The judge was openly skeptical of the husband’s evidence and at one point suggested that he stop “playing games”. The Court ultimately did not believe that Mr. Jamali had no income and imputed income to him, ordered him to pay retroactive child support and provided Ms. Ghavim with $32,000 in lump sum spousal support, which was the amount remaining from the proceeds of sale of the home.

Of course, Mr. Jamali retained the apartment in Tehran and its rental income, since only a court in Iran could divide that property.

Mr. Jamali appealed on the basis that the judge showed bias against him during the hearing. The Court of Appeal characterized the issue as to whether a reasonable observer of this trial would conclude that Mr. Jamali’s trial was unfair and ruled they would.

The Court of Appeal noted that Mr. Jamali probably didn’t understand the process of a summary trial, he probably didn’t know that he could argue that there be a full trial, he probably didn’t know that when he answered the questions of the judge that the judge would rely or scrutinize his replies to determine credibility, he probably didn’t know that he could ask to cross-examine his wife on her affidavits,and he probably didn’t know the judge would make a decision.

Yes, that’s the upshot of the case. The Court of Appeal saw Mr. Jamali as a victim of an unfair hearing and ordered that the parties start over, while confirming that the new process should also be a summary trial.

Perhaps its been too long since the Appeal Court presided over a family law hearing where there is nothing but excuses: I don’t have a lawyer; I don’t speak English; I didn’t have enough time; I didn’t know I could do this or that; please believe me, although I could have brought appraisals and documents to prove my case.

This is just one example of why the Canadian public is fed up with the system of family justice and yes, these cases happen time and time again.

How much do you want to bet that Mr. Jamali shows up again without a lawyer and the new judge makes a similar ruling?

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Father Ordered to Pay His Wife For His Outrageous Behavior

DSC00507 (2)It happens far too often in family law…a marriage breakdown that should and could be resolved, turns into scorched earth litigation.

Case in point: Madam Justice Watchuk in British Columbia’s Supreme Court walloped a litigant for his reprehensible behavior, ordering him to pay $35,000 to his wife. His over-the-top antics included rude, nasty, demeaning, and inflammatory language directed against his former wife, his wife’s lawyer and the court process itself, during a nineteen-day custody trial.

The usual rule in litigation is that the losing party must pay “costs” to the winning party. Costs are not, however, a reimbursement of the successful party’s legal fees, rather they are a contribution to them, usually amounting to about one-third.

In this case the judge ordered the father to pay “special costs”. These costs are intended to punish a litigant for outrageous or reprehensible behavior before the trial or during the court process.

What seemed to escape this belligerent litigant is that no judge will award shared parenting to an individual who is so out-of-control that he cannot rein in his rage in the face of the court.

Yes, there are litigants whose attitude and behavior is despicable, but they are smart enough to clean up their act by the time they get to court, as if butter couldn’t melt in their mouth. Often times these narcissistic creeps fool the court into believing they are the ones who have been abused.

What is common in these cases is that by the time the trial begins, they have alienated any lawyer who had the misfortune to try to assist them. As well, some percentage of these types of litigant don’t want a lawyer because they believe that acting in person allows them greater freedom to harangue, harass, and obfuscate the issues.

Unfortunately, many of these reprobates simply ignore court orders and it would not surprise me if this woman never sees the money she has been awarded, particularly because the fellow in this case spent a lot of his time in the United Kingdom.

But, you may say, once the trial is done, it’s over? Not so fast…these litigants often appeal the trial court’s decision and for good measure, often report their spouse’s lawyer to the Law Society alleging unfounded unethical conduct.

Wise words to family law lawyers: Run as fast as you can when you see this kind of client. It is never worth it…

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Round Up of 2013 Celebrity Divorces- Part 2

DSC01152_2 (2)_2Hollywood’s gossip editors had plenty to write about this year as they followed the ups and downs of the stars’ relationships, while L.A. divorce lawyers stayed as busy as ever.

1. Clint Eastwood and Dina Ruiz

Clint started his spectacular Hollywood career as the star of several Italian produced “spaghetti westerns” and later morphed into Dirty Harry, before launching his third act as an Oscar-winning director and producer.

While his professional life seemed to be one of repeated success, his personal life has been complicated, to say the least. Clint has seven children from five women, two of whom he married. Unfortunately Mr. Eastwood’s current marriage to former LA TV anchor, Dina Ruiz, 35 years his junior, has come to its conclusion, after 14 years.

They separated earlier in 2013 and Ms. Ruiz filed for divorce, only to abandon the proceedings and attempt to reconcile. But as is typical in marriage breakdown, the reconciliation failed.

Ms. Ruiz is seeking custody of their 16-year-old daughter and spousal support. Clint has already announced his unwillingness to pay Dina support but I suspect that absent a solid prenuptial agreement, California law will ensure she receives support and a large share of his assets.

Apparently Clint and Dina have each moved on to new relationships. In a curious twist, Dina has been linked with old friend and University of Hawaii basketball coach Scott Fisher, while Clint was recently seen with Mr. Fisher’s ex-wife.

2. Ashley Judd and Dario Franchitti

Actress and political activist Ashley Judd married acclaimed British Indy race car driver in 2001. Raised in a show business family, Ashley’s mother Naomi Judd, and step-sister Winona, admitted on Oprah that their family life had been dysfunctional and detrimental to Ashley as she grew up.

She moved to Los Angeles from Kentucky, studied acting, and worked as a waitress at L.A.’s famed Ivy Restaurant, before catching a break that landed her on the silver screen and television.

The couple had no children. Ashley once said that it would be irresponsible to bring children into a world where so many impoverished children needed a home.

Several years ago she attended Harvard University and received a Masters Degree in Public Administration. She was also rumoured to be interested in running for the US Senate, but so far has not thrown her hat into the ring

They separated in January 2013. On 6 October 2013, Dario was involved in a serious crash at the Grand Prix of Houston, when his car flew into catch-fencing after contact with another racer’s car. He suffered two fractured vertebrae, a broken ankle and a concussion in the accident. A month later, on 14 November 2013, Franchitti announced his immediate retirement from motor racing.

He retired with 31 victories from 265 starts in American open-wheel racing, a record which put him in a tie for eighth place on the all-time wins list, with Paul Tracy and Sébastien Bourdais.

Ashley flew to his side after the accident. Who knows, maybe they will reconcile yet?

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Roundup of 2013 Celebrity Divorces- Part 1

GEO_edited-1Once again Hollywood had more than its fair share of divorce this year. In fact, if you count the breakups of those that were just living together, you could call it a banner year.

Here’s Part 1 of the list of the most recognizable celebs:

1. Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi

The British tabloids exploded when a photo of Nigella and Charles was released: they were dining in a posh London restaurant, he had his hands around her neck and she had a desperate look on her face. Their divorce after ten years of marriage moved quickly, but the aftermath has been more than ugly.

The latest episode saw Nigella in court testifying at the criminal prosecution of her two assistants who were charged with fraud. The allegations included unauthorized spending on Lawson/Saatchi credit cards and misuse of household funds. Nigella underwent a vicious cross-examination by defence lawyers who forced her to admit her cocaine/marijuana problem and her extravagant spending.

Can this television chef recover her once-stellar reputation? With her phalanx of highly paid public relations people she likely will. As for Saatchi, he will take his millions and move on to his next marriage.

PS The assistants were acquitted this week after 90 minutes of jury deliberation.

2. The Kardashians and the Jenners

You couldn’t make this stuff up. The reality family was immersed in divorce in 2013. Of course, beauty Kim Kardashian was finally granted her divorce after her 72 day marriage to Kris Humphries. Not a moment too soon as she gave birth to Kanye West’s baby, North West, and the pair got engaged at a gala party in a large sports stadium.

Meanwhile her mom, Kris Jenner and her step-father, Bruce Jenner finally admitted their marriage was on the rocks. Apparently he had been living in their Malibu home for some time. For Bruce it must be sweet release after playing a ridiculed spouse weekly on television.

But they did not go quietly into that dark night. No, rumours abounded that Bruce was contemplating a sex-change operation and frankly, recent photos of him look decidedly more feminine than when he was an American Olympic hero. While Mrs. Jenner had her facelift live on TV, Bruce’s plastic surgery was more discrete, but he did look like an old woman, thanks to dreadful cosmetic surgery.

Finally, Khloe Kardashian and Lamar Odom’s marriage also collapsed in 2013. It’s been a tough year for Khloe as her short-lived gig on “The X Factor” also came to a screeching halt.

Lamar Odom suffers from the same problem as many professional athletes: too much of everything including celebrity worship from his basketball fans, and an excess of drugs, booze, and the party life.

The only good news for the Kardashian/Jenner family is that their reality show has been renewed and they have plenty of salacious story lines to explore in 2014.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang