New York Rabbi Ousted from Synagogue After His Fifth Divorce

BarristerIn 2007 Newsweek magazine reported that Rabbi Marc Schneier was one of the top 50 Jews in America, renowned for founding the Hampton Synagogue in tony West Hampton Beach and the New York Synagogue in Manhattan.

A media darling and interfaith leader,he was also the Vice-President of the World Jewish Congress and President of the North American Board of Rabbis. As a star in the Jewish firmament, he had one major problem. He couldn’t stay married.

His first marriage took place in 1981 while he was studying at Yeshiva University, a union that ended after less than one year. He married again to Esther Melamed, but divorced her in 1992. It was during this marriage that he initiated the upscale Hampton Synagogue, catering to the well-heeled Jewish community of the Hamptons, including celebrities like Steven Spielberg and Revlon’s Ron Perelman.

In 1993 he wed Oregonian Toby Gotesman at Gracie Mansion in New York, a coupling that produced a son, Brendan. But again it fell apart after Ms. Gotesman learned in 2005 that her husband was cheating on her with divorced fashion designer Tobi Rubinstein.

By now Rabbi Schneier was a wealthy man, earning a salary of $800,000 a year, with a posh $3 million residence in Westhampton Beach, and eager to embark on his pending nuptials to Ms. Rubinstein. The rabbi was 50-years-old and to commemorate his 50th birthday and his 4th wedding, his new wife gifted him a 400 lb. endangered Asian lion to be housed at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo.

But Ms. Rubinstein was not as naive as his former brides. She hired a private investigator to look into her husband’s activities and discovered that on a so-called business trip to Israel  he was accompanied by synagogue member, Ginny Leiner. A divorce followed in 2010.

In 2013 Rabbi Schneier married Ms. Leiner, who was wife number five. She gave birth to a baby girl, just before another infidelity ended that marriage in 2015.

At this point, the rabbi’s congregation could take no more. In a concerted effort to force him to leave, they withheld their payments and pledges, money that was required to carry on church life. He resigned in April of 2016, but his randy ways continue. He is said to be squiring a 30-something Israeli blonde around  New York social circles these days. He is 57.

With another wedding in the offing, it is apparent the Torah means nothing to the rabbi, for in Malachi 2:16 it is written:

“For I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with wrong,” says the Lord of hosts. “So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.”

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Child Custody Dispute Leads to Hitman

GeorgiaLeeLang100Dan Markel worked hard and led a blessed life, until he didn’t. Toronto born and raised, the 41-year-old graduated with a degrees from Harvard, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Cambridge, capping his academic achievements with a  Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School. He practiced white-collar criminal law and civil litigation before he became a tenured professor at Florida State Law School teaching criminal law. He wrote for academic journals and crafted controversial opinion pieces for  prestigious publications including the New York Times, Slate, and The Atlantic. Mr. Markel was an impressive man who was revered by his colleagues.

He was married to Wendi Jill Adelson, also a lawyer and professor at Florida State, and had two young sons. But his happy life began to crumble when his marriage  floundered, followed by a bitter divorce in 2013.  But the worst was yet to come.

In July 2014 Dan Markel pulled into the driveway and garage of his upscale Tallahassee, Florida home, just about to end a call on his cell phone, when he advised the caller that another vehicle was in his driveway. Those were likely Dan Markel’s final words before he was shot in the head. He died the next morning.

At first the police believed his death was related to online criticism he had received or from his legal consulting practice.  Almost immediately rewards totalling $125,000 were announced for information leading to the arrest of Mr. Markel’s assailant, but the case went cold, until last month.

On May 26, 2016 Tallahassee police arrested Sigfredo Garcia in connection with Dan Markel’s death. A “probable cause” affidavit unsealed by the Court indicated that Garcia did not act alone and that as a “hitman”,  his involvement likely stemmed from the contentious child custody matters that lingered from the Adelson/Markel divorce. Court proceedings were pending which could have prevented Ms. Adelson’s parents from carrying on with their grandparent relationship with the couple’s children, based on allegations they were badmouthing Mr. Markel. As well, Ms. Adelson’s desire to change the children’s residence from Tallahassee to Miami was at issue.

Authorities have not yet suggested that Wendi Adelson is a suspect in her ex-husband’s murder, but have indicated that further arrests should be expected. Friends of Dan initially refused to speculate on Ms. Adelson or her family’s involvement in his tragic death, but news of the arrest has prompted several to confirm that all along they believed the high-conflict custody dispute played a part in his murder.

 

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Child Support as Free Pizza Will Suffice

DSC00275_1Italians have given the world many gifts including opera, the jacuzzi, liposuction, and Roman law, which fostered the foundation for many of the world’s legal systems. However,  some say Italy’s greatest contribution (apart from pasta) is PIZZA.

As Tiger Woods once said: “And I don’t cook…not as long as they still deliver pizza”.

Fast forward to 21st century Italy where an Italian court in Padau this week ordered that a divorced father and former pizza restaurant owner, who had fallen on hard times, could discharge his child support obligation by providing free pizza to his daughter, who resided with her mother.

The former couple, Nicola Toso and Nicoletta Zuin divorced in 2002 and Mr. Toso faithfully paid his child support.  But with the world recession in 2008 he began to struggle financially. By this time he had remarried and had three children with his second wife. Between 2008 and 2010 Mr. Toso offered his ex-wife pizzas and calzones, instead of the 400 Euros he had contracted to pay.

She, however, eventually became fed up with the arrangement thrust upon her, and filed a criminal complaint against her ex-husband. By 2010 Mr. Toso had lost his restaurant after being unable to pay his suppliers and employees. He then found employment managing a pizzeria.

Toso’s lawyer advised the court that her client’s financial difficulties were legitimate, and that he was an exemplary father, as evidenced by his continuing relationship with his daughter and his successful efforts to welcome her into the life of his second family. Notably, his daughter provided evidence to the court in support of her father’s position.

The court also learned that by 2011 the child had left her mother’s home and had moved in with her father and his family. At that point, Ms. Zuin had been ordered to pay her ex-husband 300 Euros per month.

Judge Bitozzi ruled that given all the circumstances, Mr. Toso had not committed a crime by delivering pizza to his ex-wife, instead of 400 Euros,  and the criminal complaint was dismissed.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Divorce Lawyers Misunderstand Effects of Minority Shareholdings

GeorgiaLeeLang025The division of business assets between spouses in a divorce can be complicated and tricky. Elizabeth Berardi of New York found this out the hard way. She retained seventy-member law firm, Philps Nizer , in 2000 to draft a marriage agreement for  her, a document that would take effect if her marriage to Eugene Berardi failed to survive.

The negotiations led to an agreement that would give her 49% of her husband’s  interests in  several bus companies, while Mr. Berardi would retain 51%. It seemed like a very good deal.

Five years later the Berardis’ marriage collapsed and divorce proceedings were commenced. Mr. Berardi’s first tactic was to  challenge the marriage agreement, attempting to set it aside. Ms. Berardi reengaged Philips Nizer, who put 23 attorneys and 16 other professionals to work on her case,  appointing lawyer Helen Davis Chaitman as lead counsel.  After a trial in 2006, the court handed down their Reasons in 2009 upholding the agreement. Philips Nizer had achieved success for Ms. Berardi , despite Ms. Chaitman’s inexperience in family law, and after charging  legal fees of $1.4 million.

But all was not what it seemed. When Ms. Berardi attempted to liquidate her share of the bus companies, she found she had little power as a minority shareholder, particularly in the face of shareholder’s agreements  executed before 2000 that limited her ability to freely sell her interests. Her minority position also diminished the value of her shares in the company.

Ms. Berardi sued Philips Nizer for malpractice and professional negligence, asserting they either knew or should have known, and told her of the effects of her minority interest and the shareholders’ agreements. In particular, when her husband sought to overturn the agreement, they should not have opposed his application. Had the agreement been set aside, by consent of the parties, she could have negotiated a bargain that would see her receive liquid assets.

She also argued that Philips Nizer were in a conflict of interest by agreeing to act for her while seeking to uphold the agreement they had drafted. In a separate claim Ms. Berardi alleged she was grossly overcharged by Philips Nizer, as her ex-husband paid his lawyers only $395,000 in legal fees.

Naturally Philips Nizer sought to have Ms. Berardi’s lawsuits dismissed, suggesting she was simply attempting to escape payment of the funds she still owed the law firm, an amount over $700,000. However, this week Justice Nancy Bannon disagreed with Philips Nizer, refusing to dismiss the court action, paving the way for the litigation to continue.

Ms. Berardi’s new lawyers, Pollock & Maguire, believe that Philips Nizer pursued and obtained minority shareholder status for Ms. Berardi, never realizing the ramifications of their successful defence, until it was too late. Lead counsel, Helen Davis Chaitman is no longer with the firm and is not a defendant in the lawsuit.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

 

 

 

 

To Sign or Not to Sign: The Prenup Dilemma

DSC01152_2 (2)_2Pre-nuptial agreements are so commonplace today that no one gives them a second thought.  They are considered de rigueur in second marriages, particularly where there are children from a first marriage, who panic at the first sign that good ol’ dad has a girlfriend. They are also regularly used when a 50-year old wealthy bachelor moves his 25-year old girlfriend into his home. Ah…young love…

Their purpose is to protect a spouse’s assets from attack by their new partner if the relationship breaks down, and often they provide that upon separation, the wealthy spouse will not pay spousal support to the other.

But do they offer the protection the monied spouse is seeking, and what happens if your partner refuses to sign one?

Prenups are, of course, simply contracts, but unlike commercial contracts, courts look at prenups differently. When a couple begin living together or get married, there should be no expectation that each of them automatically has an interest in the other’s property or can expect to be supported by their new partner.

However, there comes a time when a couples’ lives are so intertwined that the law recognizes and provides for the sharing of property and in many cases, spousal support. Some of the factors include the birth of children, the sharing of childcare, the pooling of financial resources, the length of the relationship, and the many  non-financial contributions  each makes based on their abilities and skills.

In the usual prenup scenarios, if dad’s second marriage lasts as long or longer than his first, the prenup signed at the outset may be difficult to enforce. Our bachelor with the young girlfriend may find that after she has two children and is no longer participating in the job force, the contract they signed is simply unfair to her.

Often clients will make an appointment to discuss their desire for a prenup, but frequently it is a subject they have not yet raised with their partner. While prenups are not terribly expensive, to instruct a lawyer to draft one is rather foolish unless one has broached the issue with one’s sweetheart.

Case in point: New York executive,  Yiri Sun, is a Princeton graduate and vice-president of a large insurance company. She was very excited about her wedding day. She had booked a beautiful venue, the catering was top-notch, her bridal gown was exquisite, and the invitations sent.

At the last minute she was forced to call off the wedding as she refused to sign the prenup that was presented to her. Instead of losing her $8,000  reception deposit, she decided to turn her wedding into a party for 60 needy children and their families, referred to her by  the Salvation Army. She hosted the event wearing her wedding gown.

Ms. Sun’s professional status clearly gave her the confidence to call off the wedding when she saw the terms of the contract. Most women presented with prenups simply sign them. The good news for them is that if their relationship is not short, and they have made life choices that prejudice their financial well-being, they may be able to convince a judge to overrule the prenup.

As I tell my clients, prenups are a short-term solution, that in the long-run may not meet their expectations.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Missouri Politicians Vote in Favour of Equal Parenting

GeorgiaLeeLang025The State of Missouri can truly boast of their “enlightened” political representation as state legislators took a bold step this week and passed legislation to engrain the concept of shared parenting into their family laws. The next step is for Governor Jay Nixon to sign the bill into law.

You may ask: Is this another one of those “watered-down” efforts we have seen before, where the change does not remedy the age-old “dad can’t be an equal participant in parenting” philosophy?  Not at all.

The changes contemplated in the new law are exciting for Missouri fathers who have for too long been marginalized by antiquated twentieth century traditions of stay-at-home moms and working dads, operating to advance a maternal preference for parenting after separation. The old way of parenting was shored up by untested psychological theories about mothers and fathers that unwittingly led to a template of a “visiting” parent, usually relegated to every second weekend for a total of four nights of access 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 straightjacket that we now know has hurt generations of children and needlessly disempowered parents, usually fathers.

The proposed Missouri law challenges those outdated assumptions by injecting language that directly addresses the inequality that has reigned for decades in North America.

For example, the definition of joint custody will read:

” Joint physical custody means an order awarding each of the parents approximate and reasonably equal periods of time during which a child resides with or is under the care and supervision of each of the parents. Joint physical custody shall be shared by the parents in such a way as to assure the child of substantial, frequent, continuing, and meaningful contact with both parents;”

The bill also includes the following passage:

” In determining the allocation of periods of physical custody, the court shall presume that a parenting plan that equalizes to the highest degree the amount of time the child may spend with each parent is in the best interest of the child. The state courts administrator shall modify the Form 68-A Parenting Plan, also known as “Schedule J”, to reflect the provisions of this subdivision and to include that the default parenting plan shall include alternating weeks with each parent, unless the parents submit an alternative parenting plan.”

It is encouraging to see politicians embrace the most up-to-date research which overwhelmingly supports parents as equal partners in parenting after separation. Hopefully, other jurisdictions will wake up and recognize that conflict during divorce should not be used to eliminate what hundreds of social scientists say is the best outcome for children. Shared parenting. It’s good for kids and parents.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

GUEST POST: Making Sense of Divorce Statistics

In today’s society, couples are led to believe that 50% of marriages end in divorce. How accurate is this statistic, though? In actuality, relationship experts have found the arbitrary figure of “50%” to be misleading. Recent, detailed analysis indicates that more encouraging statistics lie beneath this often referenced yet exaggerated data point. So, what can couples learn from the new research in order to build a healthy marriage?

First, it’s important to note that this “50% myth” is false. In fact, the divorce rate has been declining since 1980. An article published in The New York Times, “The Divorce Surge Is Over, but the Myth Lives On,” states that 70% of spouses who tied the knot during the 1990s have celebrated their 15th anniversary, a 15% increase from those who married in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Moreover, couples walking down the aisle from 2000 onward, are experiencing even fewer causes for separation. The current ratio of divorced couples to married couples is measured at 1:3, and if this trend continues, nearly two-thirds of marriages will never end in divorce.

This steady decrease in divorce rates is based on several factors. Here’s a breakdown of why exactly marriages either thrive or fail, and how couples can use this data to improve their chances of maintaining wedded bliss.

Education Level

According to Sharon Pastore of the Main Line Family Law Center, spouses who have both earned degrees are 25% less likely to divorce than those without collegiate training. In fact, of college-educated people who married during the early 2000s, only 11% had divorced by their seventh anniversary (so, don’t take that “Seven Year Itch” stereotype too seriously!).

Age Range

A study launched by the CDC has concluded that those who tie the knot between 20-24 years old, face a higher threat of getting divorced than any other age demographic. This can be attributed to a young person’s tendency toward self-absorption, emotional immaturity, ill-preparation and tenuous grasp on adult responsibilities.

Financial Status

Households that generate an annual income of at least $50K are 30% less likely to divorce than those living within the budget constraints of a $25K annual income, as determined by the Main Line Family Law Center. Lower socioeconomic status often results in marital tension and subsequent separation. However, ironically, the actual divorce process can potentially lead to financial hardship for both parties involved, as well.

Religious Affiliation

On average, divorce rates within the church tend to be lower than among secular environments. The American Family Association Journal surveyed over 50 churches from 2012-2013, and found that only 22% of married congregants had been divorced. Furthermore, if spouses are actively engaged in practicing a religion together, they are 14% less likely to separate than those lacking any faith-based ties.

Geographic Location

The prevalence of divorce can also depend on where people live. For example, in the United States, West Coast couples are more vulnerable to marriage failure. According to The Demographic and Household Estimates for 2005-2009, conducted by American Community Survey, New York City exhibits less divorce than any other U.S. metropolitan area. Why do Big Apple-based marriages stick? NBC New York reports: “It’s difficult to file for divorce in New York which might contribute to the lower rates. New Yorkers also tend to stay single longer, so there are fewer people per capita getting married, thus fewer people getting divorced.”

Part 2 of this Guest Post will identify other relevant factors.

Guest Author:NANDA DAVIS  is a graduate of George Mason University School of Law. She practices family law in Virginia at The Davis Law Practice. Her articles have appeared in several legal publications including Justipedia.  http://www.davislawpractice.com/