Countess Marie claims she helped her husband’s career by giving him advice; should she get more alimony?

What were Countess Marie Douglas David’s contributions to her spouse George David and should these earn her increased maintenance/alimony?

Connecticut, like New York, is an equitable distribution state. That means the the court is obligated to see that the equities of the parties are balanced in a divorce action.

One of the things the court must consider is the contributions made by the non-titled spouse to the career of the other spouse. Marie is apparently claiming that she helped her husband UTC chairman George David make the $400 or so million dollars he made during their six year marriage given that she gave him advice, accompanied him to high powered meetings on occasion, and, I guess, helped him entertain VIP guests at various parties.

At first blush, most people think that is a laughable proposition. But the fact is that the countess was working on Wall Street as a financial analyst of Lazard Freres when she met her husband. She wined and dined rich, influential men in such sexy locales as Cannes, France, and right her in New York. (Actually some of these after work drink networking sessions were said to have caused some jealousy in the marriage since George who apparently believed a married woman should not be out without her husband after dusk, didn’t want Marie out of the house “after 5 p.m.” )

George has apparently admitted on the stand that he and Marie used to talk about work issues.

In an equitable distribution scenario, the court must consider each spouse’s contributions in making an award of maintenance. See, Roffey v. Rofey 217 AD 2d 864. But usually the court is looking at contributions made over a significant period of time in a long term marriage. See the case Sperling v. Sperling  165 AD 2d 338. A significant time period is usually about 20 years or more. In the Fischer v. Fischer case 199 AD 2d 1028 the wife had made contributions over a period of 35 years. Marie was married for 6 years and by year two, the marriage was already in trouble. How much significant time could she have spent giving her husband business advice that made a difference in how much money he made during the 6 years of marriage?

The court will look at Marie’s contributions to the marriage as “homemaker” but the court may be “less sympathetic to the spouse claiming contribution as a homemaker where the marriage was childless or where the spouse enjoyed leisure pursuits instead of tending to the home and family.”

Here, the Countess’ own admission shows that a significant part of her life with George was spent in a “gilded cage.” There was a lot of money spent on shopping, travelling and other extravagances like helicopter rides to the Hamptons, furs, fancy cars, and caviar cruises. She had more Birkin bags than she knew what to do with. He says she shopped, and he paid the bills. Must be nice. It sounds like a great lifestyle if one is into that kind of thing, but it doesn’t really speak to her argument that she spent significant time helping him professionally. And she has admitted that they didn’t have kids even though he was willing to spring for IVF. As far as housekeeping? She had a full household staff. So these were not contributions and sacrifices she can claim.

Still, the fact that George admitted that “we spoke” when pressed about business conversations they had had, is significant and does dispel, to some extent, that all Marie did in the marriage was look pretty and provide him with sex.

And those letters she wrote to him calling him “my pumpkin” where she apologized, essentially, for being an “imperfect wife”? I think those contradict the notion that she was in it just for the money. Those were the letters of a wife who was affectionate to her husband, at least to some extent.

Even so, I still think that if the post nup is otherwise properly executed, that it should be upheld absent a showing that is clear and unequivocal that he forced her to sign it.

As far as her “advice” and whether she should get more maintenance on that basis? I don’t know. I am not persuaded that it was for a long enough period or was substantial enough to have increased her husband’s take home pay, or his performance on the job. But who knows? Maybe the judge will find otherwise. We shall have to wait and see what the judge thinks, shan’t we?

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