Countess Marie made $400,000/year as Wall Street analyst; will that factor into her divorce settlement?

Roffey v. Roffey; Hartog v. Hartog; DRL section 236(B)(6)(a)(1)-(11).

Does Countess Marie really need the alimony/maintenance she is asking for given that she was such a high earner when she was on Wall Street a few years ago? Girlfriend made more than Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner made when he was president of the Federal Reserve! (He made only $398,200 in 2007.) Go figure.

I know this is a Connecticut case, but Connecticut, like New York, is an equitable distribution state. That means the court is looking at what is “fair.” And with respect to alimony/maintenance, I can tell you that in New York the Statute outlines all the factors the court should look at to determine not only how much alimony/maintenance to order, but the duration of it.

The court looks at 11 factors. One of those factors is the ability of the non-monied spouse to become self-supporting. Another factor is the age of the parties; another is the length of the marriage and one of the most critical is the standard of living of the parties.

I want to focus on this issue of being able to become “self-supporting” in the context of the Marie Douglas David/George David divorce. If Marie was earning $400,000 per year as a Wall Street analyst (she was an aerospace analyst for Lazard Frere, according to the Post) then she definitely has the ability to become self-supporting as she is only 36 years old, and seems to be in excellent health. I don’t see how she could get lifetime maintenance in this instance given that notwithstanding the standard of living while married, so many other factors including her age and the length of the marriage mitigate against lifetime maintenance.

Marie is distinguishable from the wife in Roffey v. Roffey who had been married for 27 years and had withdrawn from the workplace to be a wife, mother and homemaker, not only in terms of the number of years of marriage (in Marie’s case only 6) but Marie did not withdraw from her $400,000 Wall Street gig to be a “mother” and “homemaker.”  Nor did the Countess give up “educational opportunities” to be George’s wife. She does claim that Mr. David ridiculed her work as an analyst on Wall Street, but I don’t think that claim is plausible. Why? I don’t know. I don’t see how a rational person could ridicule his wife’s job as an “aerospace analyst” on Wall Street. She wasn’t exactly a stripper or even an executive secretary. She was a friggin aerospace analyst. I mean, I’m not an aerospace analyst. I don’t even know what an aerospace analyst on Wall Street does. Are you an aerospace analyst? Do you know what an aerospace analyst does? 

But the fact that the Countess (btw according to Page Six, she grew up as one of the richest girls in Sweden and used to live in a Castle)  can become self-supporting is not the only inquiry the court must make. The standard of living she enjoyed while married to the UTC CEO — and by all accounts, that was pretty posh–is going to factor mightily into the court’s decision.

Says the New York Court of Appeals in Hartog v. Hartog:

The wife’s ability to become self-supporting with respect to some standard of living in no way (1) obviates the need for the court to consider the predivorce standard of living; and (2) certainly does not create a per se bar to lifetime maintenance. Correspondingly, a predivorce “high life” standard of living guarantees no per se entitlement to an award of lifetime maintenance. The lower courts must consider the payee spouse’s reasonable needs and predivorce standard of living in the context of the other enumerated statutory factors, and then, in their discretion, fashion a fair and equitable maintenance award accordingly. DRL section 236(B)(6)(a)(1)-(11).

There is no question in my mind that Marie Douglas David has excellent earning capacities post-divorce, if in fact, she made $400K only six year ago as a Wall Street analyst.  The fact that the marriage only lasted six years (it was in trouble after two years) and the fact that she is so young, will likely count against her in terms of getting lifetime maintenance and maybe even durational maintenance depending on the size of the settlement.

Plus, there is the question of her husband’s future earning capacities which  is greatly reduced when compared to hers. He is 66, already past retirement age. Think about it realistically. How much longer can he pull in $70 million per year? How much longer will he be “working?”  The man’s bull days as a high income earner are behind him while hers are ahead of her. So her request for $130,000 per month (lifetime?) maintenance will likely be seen as excessive under their particular circumstances.

Notwithstanding their marital standard of living, Marie  will probably get some maintenance if the judge does go ahead and strikes the post nup, but I am hedging my bets that it will be “durational” and not “lifetime” and that is partly due to her ability to become self-supporting and her youth.

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