Guest Post: The Most Expensive Divorces Ever

Everyone knows that divorce can be an expensive process, but some of the sums involved in the world’s most expensive divorces are truly eye-watering.

Expensive divorces have been in the news recently with the Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev being forced to pay his former wife $4.5 billion in what has been called the “most expensive divorce in history”.

The order came from a Swiss court, with Elena Rybolovlev’s divorce solicitors branding it a “complete victory”. Her former husband is now set to lose half of his wealth.

Dmitry Rybolovlev’s spokesperson Serget Chernitsyn argued that the divorce was a “win” for him, although his lawyers are said to be launching an appeal. Query why Mr. Rybolovlev would appeal if he won his case? Pure bafflegab!

The couple was married for 23 years and it took six years for the case to be completed. Rybovelev made his money from the potassium fertilizer industry and is the owner of the Monaco Football Club. He is also famous for buying the Palm Beach Maison de L’Amitie from Donald Trump for chump change, around $95 billion!

THE DIVORCE OF MURDOCH AND DENG

Controversial media tycoon Rupert Murdoch’s 2013 divorce from Wendi Deng cost him a reported $1.8 billion even though he had a pre-nuptial agreement. This gives you an idea that prenps may not be everything they are cracked up to be, particularly if a couple’s circumstances change and children enter the picture.

They were married for 14 years and it is likely the payout to Ms. Deng was so high due to the needs of their daughters’, among other reasons. Deng, who is almost 40 years his junior, hit the headlines when she slapped a protestor who threw a pie at her husband during the phone-hacking enquiry in 2011.

Murdoch married Deng just two-and-a-half weeks after his previous marriage was finalised in 1999 with the help of divorce lawyers. He also paid a bundle to his first wife!

THE WILDENSTEIN’S DIVORCE

The 1997 divorce of Alec and Jocelyn Wildenstein cost an estimated $2.5 billion. Alec was from a family of famous art dealers and their divorce was seen as a huge scandal. Things turned sour when Ms. Wildenstein caught her husband in bed with a young Russian model.

Alec then, wielding a gun, threatened his wife and for his trouble spent a sleepless night in the local jail. Judge Marilyn Diamond, who presided over the divorce proceedings received a number of death threats.

Judge Diamond told Jocelyn that she could not use the alimony payments for cosmetic surgery, as by this time Ms. Wildenstein’s multiple surgeries led to her nickname “The Cat Woman”.

The Court gave her $2.5 billion and $100 million every year for 13 years after. Alec Wildenstein died in 2008 leaving his young Russian widow.

ECCLESTONE PAID BY FORMER WIFE

Formula One tycoon Bernie Ecclestone raised eyebrows when it was made public that he was being paid by his ex-wife following his 2009 divorce.

Documents recently released showed that Ecclestone was receiving $100 million dollars each year from his former wife Slavica’s trust fund. Information about how long the payments would continue have not been made public.

It’s said that this divorce was worth $1.2 billion, placing it high in the top ten divorces in history. Ecclestone is one of the sporting world’s most controversial figures and famously paid a significant sum to escape bribery charges in spring 2014.

It seems the richer you are, the harder you will fight to retain your wealth. Quite amazing to realize that these couples could not in a lifetime spend all the money they have.

“Money often costs too much.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

This post was GUEST AUTHORED by RIX AND KAY, Family law solicitors from Sussex, Brighton, East Sussex and Kent in the UNITED KINGDOM, an experienced team of barristers and solicitors.

Rampant Sex Discrimination in Saudi Arabia

_DSC4179 - Version 2To be born female in Saudi Arabia is to endure a life of discrimination…on many fronts. First of all, it is legal for men in Saudi to have up to four wives who may be as young as 10-years old, as long as they can afford to support them all. It is reported that polygamy is increasingly popular with younger generations, bolstered by their oil wealth.

Saudi women cannot leave their home unless they are escorted by a male guardian, usually their father, brother or husband. They cannot marry, divorce, travel, open a bank account, or consent to elective surgery, without the approval of their guardian. They also are not permitted to drive a vehicle and women who disregard this law have been subject to punishments like flogging.

Photos of Saudi women show them covered up with only their hands and eyes showing, a custom/law that is enforced by the “religious police”.

It was not until 2005 that women were entitled to vote or run for political office, and in 2008 they were finally allowed to initiate and engage in educational studies on their own.

Family law in Saudi Arabia is equally demeaning and restrictive. A woman who socializes with a man who is not a relative can be accused of adultery, fornication, or prostitution. Sex segregation is the norm, with special female entrances and sections in banks and other public institutions. Women must sit with other women when they dine in a restaurant. It is reported that men’s sections in restaurants are usually well-furnished and welcoming, while the women’s sections are sparse and uninviting.

Divorce laws are cruel and unjust. Men may divorce their spouses anytime they want for any reason or no reason at all, while women can only divorce if their husband consents, or they obtain a judicial divorce, but only if they can prove harm or injury during their marriage. Fathers obtain custody of all children over seven-years-old.

The only obligation a man has to his ex-wife is to provide financial support for a period of four months and ten days.

Two recent divorces in Saudi have gone viral in the west, because of their unusual capriciousness. In one case an arranged marriage, which is the norm, came to a sudden end, just after the couple were declared man and wife. The couple had not met prior to the wedding and the first time the groom saw his bride was when she lifted her veil at the conclusion of the ceremony.

Her groom was taken aback when he saw his new wife’s face and according to media reports said: ““You are not the girl I want to marry. You are not the one I had imagined. I am sorry, but I divorce you.” She immediately collapsed with tears and the marriage was over.

In the second case, a Saudi man text messaged his wife to inform her that he wanted a divorce, because she ignored his previous text messages.

According to a story from Gulf News, this couple were having marriage difficulties because the husband believed his wife spent too much time on her cell phone talking to her girlfriends and ignoring him. The last straw for him was his unanswered phone messages and text messages to his wife. He knew from the app on his phone that she had received and read the text message but had not bothered to reply.

It’s no wonder the divorce rate in Saudi is 50%, but with multiple wives I guess the loss of one is not a real hardship.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Ugly Divorce: Allegations of Pedophilia/Exhibitionism Haunt Actor Stephen Collins

DSC00280Stephen Collins is an accomplished actor who has performed on and off- Broadway, and in a variety of films and television productions over a lengthy Hollywood career. He is most famous for playing the father in the WB network’s “7th Heaven” for over 10 years.

After a first marriage lasting seven years, he married actress Faye Grant in 1985 and they have one child together. Ms. Grant has not seen the same career success as her husband.

Unfortunately, in 2012 their marriage broke down and Mr. Collins filed for divorce. According to Ms. Grant, about that same time they were in couples’ counselling and during a confidential counselling session Mr. Collins allegedly admitted he had sexually molested several young girls. A tape recording of this session was made by Ms. Grant without Mr. Collins knowledge and she saw to it that the tape was delivered to the police in New York.

After an apparent investigation no charges were filed agains Mr. Collins and that might have been the end of it, until gossip giant TMZ recently received a copy of the tape and released it on their website.

TMZ has stated that the tape came from Faye Grant although she has denied their claim. In the meantime, court documents filed by Ms. Grant have surfaced that are adding more fuel to the fire and Stephen Collins’ career resembles a funeral pyre, with the release of this startling information.

He was about to commence production on a movie but was immediately let go and has also resigned from the national board of the Screen Actors Guild.

The sad and sorry part is that the this tape and the accompanying allegations have nothing to do with the divorce that is before the court. Their child is an adult. The only issues are financial. Ms. Grant is seeking $13,000 a month in spousal support and division of their family community property, which reportedly amounts to $13 million.

Mr. Collins’ lawyer has said that Ms. Grant used the audiotape to extort additional monies from his client, beyond the amounts she would be entitled to by law. Of course, Grant’s attorney denies that, only allowing that she wanted him to provide a trust fund for their adult daughter and make a donation to a sexual abuse charity.

It can’t be a coincidence that the tape was released on the eve of their divorce trial this week, which has now been postponed because Faye Grant’s lawyer refuses to continue to act for her, citing a dispute regarding his legal fees and an “irremediable breakdown of the attorney-client relationship”.

If she is entitled to a substantial portion of their $13 million dollar
estate, her attorney’s excuse for dropping out of the case sounds suspicious. Could it be that her attorney realizes she has sabotaged her case by the release of the tape?

With no income coming to Mr. Collins, Ms. Grant must surely understand that any thoughts of significant spousal support are a pipe dream. And now she also has to respond to her husband’s lawsuit against her, where he is seeking $1 million dollars in damages for the harm she has caused to his career and his lost income.

At this stage, no alleged victims have surfaced and I suspect that is why the police investigation in 2012 came to a stand-still. Nonetheless, true or not, it will be a miracle if Stephen Collins can recover his reputation and professional status in Hollywood.

So ugly, and so unnecessary….Let the criminal justice system deal with this issue. It has no place in family court.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee lang

.

Family Court Judge Scolded for Discourteous Remarks

_DSC4179 - Version 2I have some sympathy for Judge Daniel Healy of Solano County, California. As a family court judge he has likely seen and heard it all…and I can readily accept that his intemperate remarks to certain litigants was borne out of intense frustration.

Among the worst of his “undignified and discourteous” remarks were the following:

In August 2013 Judge Healy was presiding over a family law case where a husband alleged his spouse was driving drunk with the couple’s child in her car. Judge Healy commented that while the two parents may not chronically abuse drugs and alcohol, both of them struck him as “rotten”. He called the mother a “liar” and said “Why don’t you prove to me that you recognize what a train wreck you are?” He also told her lawyer that she should be “grovelling like there is no tomorrow”.

In another case Judge Healy rebuked the father for his threatening and vulgar messages to his wife, saying “if the children do something thuggish and stupid it’s because their father is thuggish and stupid.” He also remarked “life is too short to let kids be tortured by rotten parents like you two”.

And in a 2012 case he said “This is the first time I’ve seen you but if you are exposing your daughter to one-fifth of the attitude I’m getting from you right now, you might as well have her start walking the streets as a hooker because that’s the life you’re going to subject her to, when you treat her like this, when you flash this attitude like this.”

Judge Healy also threatened litigants with imprisonment on multiple occasions despite lacking any authority to do so.

Yes, I think he crossed the line, but the stress of dealing with unfit, incompetent parents on a daily basis would cause the most sane of us to finally say what we really thought. No excuse, but understandable.

The Discipline Commission held as follows:

“Judge Healy argued that blunt and evocative language is sometimes necessary to compel litigants to gain awareness of their circumstances, the harm that they are causing their children, and the importance of respect and cooperation. The commission disagrees. Referring to litigants as “rotten,” “stupid and thuggish,” and a “total human disaster,” and telling litigants their child “might as well start walking the streets as a hooker,” is the antithesis of imparting the importance of respect.”

Judge Healy received a “public admonishment” and no longer sits in family court. He is likely happy to be out of there!

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Divorce Spyware: I Spy With My Little Eye

DSC00275_1 In many family law cases suspicion and lack of trust permeates divorce proceedings. It has become routine to have new divorce clients ask about the legal rules regarding spyware, computer passwords, telephone taps, and other forms of clandestine information-gathering tools.

In the old days, divorcing parties hired private detectives to ferret out damaging information about their estranged spouses. When no-fault divorce was introduced in Canada, investigators found their work drying up as it didn’t matter whether a spouse had been unfaithful.

However, with advances in technology and the proliferation of “Spy” stores, anybody
can readily access hidden “nanny” cameras, telephone bugs and computer screeners, or privately install a GPS on an unwitting spouse’s vehicle.

Gone are the simpler days when a wife simply located her husband’s desk keys or office pass to make an after-hours entry in order to surreptitiously remove or photocopy important documents and generally snoop for information that might help her and hurt him.

Even without sophisticated spy tools it is not difficult to track a spouse’s activities by monitoring their emails, text messages, credit card purchases, bank transactions, Facebook page, etc. Most separated spouses do not immediately change their passwords and frequently spouses can access important information this way.

But is it legal? That’s where it gets dicey…If the family computer is shared by both husband and wife with a single password, it may be offensive to spy on one’s spouse, but probably not illegal.

But even without a computer password, illegal hacking is easier than you think with today’s sophisticated devices. You may recall that journalists for one of Britain’s leading newspapers were hacking phones and computers of celebrities, crime victims, and the royal family, a situation that resulted in the newspaper eventually folding amid embarrassment and scandal.

What about putting a tap on a spouse’s car phone? That’s a no-no. Canada’s privacy law provides that so long as one of the two parties being recorded consents there is no problem and of course, if you record your conversations with your spouse you have obviously consented. However, if you place a bug on your wife’s car telephone, you are recording her conversations with others, yes, maybe even her boyfriend, but those parties have not consented.

What about installing a hidden tracker on your spouse’s car? Again, if the car is in joint names, you can do as you like, but I would be cautious with a GPS on a vehicle that does not belong to you. Besides potential privacy violations, you may be faced with criminal charges such as stalking or harassment.

The question you must ask is whether the evidence you need to get is worth the risk of a privacy violation or worse? That’s a decision for you and your family lawyer to make.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Rocker Randy Bachman’s Divorce Just Got More Complicated

10950859361151CDPRock legend Randy Bachman thought he was “taking care of business” when he and his wife, Denise Beck Bachman opted out of their divorce trial and agreed to settle their financial issues amicably last January. A smart move….however, sometimes in family law, one party thinks they’ve got a deal, while the other disagrees.

That’s exactly what brought the Bachman’s into Supreme Court recently.

The couple married in 1982 and became step-parents of each other’s children from previous marriages. Randy had six children with his first wife, while Denise had one son. Together they brought their own child into the world and remained a couple until their separation in 2011.

Their alleged settlement provided Denise with 27.5% of his annual song royalties of $1.4 million a year, and $32,000 a month in spousal support. As part of Denise’s financial package she was to acquire one-half of a residence in London, England upon Randy’s death.

However, she later learned that the property had been transferred to a trust and she claimed the beneficiaries were Randy’s six children and not her.

Meanwhile, while Mr. Bachman argued that a full agreement had been reached, he did not pay Denise her $32,000 monthly support but instead had paid her $3,000 a month.

Denise advised Chief Justice Hinkson that no final agreement had been reached because her husband had not agreed to provide “security” for the payments she was to receive. Security can be in many forms including the granting of a mortgage, a sum of money held in trust, or a letter of credit.

The purpose of security is that if the payor refuses or cannot pay the sums owed, the security can be used to make the required payments.

Denise’s argument prevailed. The judge ordered that if security was an integral part of the agreement and it had not been agreed by the parties, then the agreement was not complete. CJ Hinkson also said it was not the Court’s responsibility to fill in the details of an otherwise incomplete agreement. The judge also ordered Mr. Bachman to pay his wife $32,000 a month pending a final settlement or judgment.

So, the Bachman’s are back where they started. They can either negotiate a new settlement of the financial issues or book a trial and have a judge decide the issues. Or if they were really smart they would hire a family law arbitrator to resolve all matters and thus avoid the cost, delay, and publicity of a trial.

The public unravelling of a rock and roll marriage would undoubtedly generate a media frenzy!

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

When Surrogacy and Adoption Goes Wrong

DSC00258_1Several months ago we read about a couple from Australia who hired a Thai surrogate so she could bear the child they always wanted. During month three of the surrogate’s pregnancy the couple were informed that the 21 year-old surrogate was having twins, one of whom tested positive for Down’s syndrome. According to the surrogate, the parents-to-be implored her to have an abortion but she refused.

When the twins were born the agency who arranged the surrogacy delivered the “healthy” twin girl to the couple, leaving behind the baby boy who also had a congenital heart defect. Once the rejection of this little boy went viral, kind people around the world began donating monies, more than $150,000, to the surrogate mother who vowed to keep the baby and was surprised and heartened by the generosity of strangers.

The Australian couple were vilified and attempted to tell their side of the story, which was that they prayed fervently for their baby’s boy health when the twins were born two months premature, but were told the baby boy would not survive more than a day.

The media storm accelerated when it was publicly revealed that the biological father, an Australian, was a convicted pedophile and his Asian wife was aware of his sordid past. At the same time, the media released information that more than 65 babies born of surrogates in Thailand for gay couples from Israel were in the hands of Thai social services, because the Israeli government refused to grant immigration visas to the children.

These stories and others tell of the difficulties experienced by adoptive parents, surrogate mothers, and other players in the world of assisted reproduction and adoption.

A new story out of New York sheds further light on the frailties of international adoption. In the case of Matter of Adoption of Child A and Child C, a Long Island couple adopted two children from Russia in 2008. The children were described as “healthy and socially well-adjusted siblings”, but their adoptive parents had reason to doubt what they had been told when both children began to exhibit serious mental health problems. The couple also learned that the children were not related and both had been victims of sexual abuse. This truth began to explain the children’s bizarre behaviour including their threats to kill the parents.

Nassau County Judge Edward McCarty III will hear the parent’s application to void the adoption which will be heard in open court although the names of the parents and the children will be sealed. Judge McCarty explained that he wanted the proceedings to be public because 18 Russian children who were adopted by American families died violently in the last 20 years, most of them only residing in the US for six months.

The Long Island children, who are 12 and 14 years-old, are presently in state mental health facilities.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang