When New York Millionaires Get Divorced, It Usually Means High Drama
When New York Millionaires Get Divorced, These High Net Worth Million Dollar Splits are Filled With Drama, Intrigue & Hidden Assets
When the New York millionaire gets divorced, he or she better have a damn good divorce lawyer – for starters. Because it is going to be a legal pow wow to say the least and you better have legal representation that is competent, effective and aggressive.
New York is not LA or Palm Beach by any means and it is not like the millionaire’s spouse will automatically get half of his or her assets, but nevertheless, if you are a millionaire in New York and want to get a divorce, you better lawyer up pretty good.
The thing is, these “high end divorces” are a very high impact sport no matter where you live. In Manhattan, it is just going to be full of New York style drama and maybe it’s because of the type of millionaire who lives here. In New York, millionaires are probably going to be younger as compared to their Palm Beach counterparts and they are more likely to more bold-faced names than in Florida. Of course, when compared to their LA counterparts, not so much. The LA socialites (Kardashians!) definitely tend to be more “famous” than the wall street tycoons are in New York.
Nevertheless, there is a high concentration of millionaire socialites, athletes, tech entrepreneurs, politicians, art dealers and Wall street tycoons in Manhattan and also, a significant group of second-homers too whose primary residence may be on a yacht moored in the Bahamas.
Most of these people are in solid marriages if you believe the various statistics that suggest that having a lot of money makes marriages more stable as compared to not having enough money that tends to lead to squabbles that lead to divorce. Be that as it may, there are still a lot of high asset divorces in New York because money just can’t buy you love, and these divorce cases keep a certain class of divorce lawyers very, very busy.
Divorce lawyers who get the call when New York millionaires get divorced are a very small, tight knit and exclusive group. There are probably fewer than 10 divorce lawyers who are in this exclusive club. They are like the Opus Dei of the divorce and family bar in New York and they are very well compensated by their clients often commanding hourly fees of between $350 -650 per hour, and with a minimum retainer of $25,000. These are in the “expensive divorce lawyer” category. And apparently, are worth every penny. It’s nice work if you can get it….
Are you one of those New York millionaires who is thinking about filing for divorce? There are a number of things you need to think about with this “divorce, millionaire, New York” situation. First of all, yes, you do need to select the right lawyer as noted above but you also have to think about your prenup. Yep, the contract you signed before you walked down the aisle may not be as airtight as you think.
You have to ask yourself and your divorce lawyer “Is this thing even valid? Will the courts uphold it?”
Usually, prenups are valid in New York and courts do uphold these contracts if they are properly executed and deemed fundamentally fair. But there are exceptions. Consider for example the case involving Elizabeth and Peter Petrakis where the New York Appellate Division threw out a prenup based solely on Elizabeth’s allegations that then fiancé Peter – a commercial real estate millionaire investor – had verbally promised to rip up the prenup if they had kids. Petrakis argued that she had been coerced into signing the prenup because had she not signed he would have called off the wedding even though her father had already paid tens of thousands for the reception. (It was a Long Island case that reached the Appellate Division. The Brooklyn Appeals court sided with Elizabeth.)
The takeaway? Even though prenups have been iron clad in New York, as a general rule, these days, you never know. So if you have a prenup, make sure it is “fair” at the inception.
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The huge MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR divorce settlement does not only happen in London
London has the reputation of being the Divorce Capital of the World because of the big payouts that trophy wives tend to get over there. But don’t think this is only English myth and whimsy. Big and unexpected divorce payouts can and have also happened in the Empire State. As a matter of fact, maybe the very biggest payouts have happened in New York. Exhibit “A” is Jocelyn Wildenstein, aka “Cat Woman.” When the Swiss born socialite divorced her art dealer husband Alec (Alex?) Wildenstein in the 1990s, she netted over $2 billion dollars overall, and was ordered paid $100 million per year for 13 years! Can you believe it?
Did they have a prenup? This is not clear but the point is for New York millionaires who are thinking about divorce, don’t believe that because this is not LA or London that you will not get taken to the cleaners.
Upward and Downward Modifications of Spousal Support Orders
When New York millionaires get divorced, they are often ordered to pay these massive monthly child support and spousal support. The idea is that the ex spouse and kids has the right to be kept at the standard of living they had enjoyed during the marriage (at least for a period of time whilst they get back on their feet) and this lavish lifestyle admittedly can be very expensive.
The way the courts arrive at the numbers, typically, is the divorce lawyers submit these financial affidavits where the parties attest to what their lifestyle had been during the marriage and based on this, spousal support orders are determined.
The problem is that sometimes, one party may over-estimate or puff up the standard to get more money whereas the other may try to under-estimate the standard. The court will often infer the standard based on the conduct of the parties. If you are so broke you cannot pay child support or for expensive prep schools on the Upper East Side, or spousal support, but you are buying a $200,000 Lamborghini IN CASH the court is just going to impute income.
But the court could downwardly modify an existing order or upwardly modify the order based on changed circumstances of the parties. The court could also shorten or lengthen a support order.
When Manhattan millionaires get divorced, you can bet there will be allegations about hidden assets. Indeed, this is why a lot of these folks pay big bucks to divorce lawyers, forensics experts and a whole legion of people whose job it is to find and locate money hidden all over the globe. It is a fascinating aspect of the high net worth divorce, in fact. This tendency for rich folks, men in particular, to hide money in offshore accounts. When a New York millionaire gets divorced, and you are the one who is on the other end of the proceeding, you better make sure you have the right team to assist you.
A recent New York Times article can lend some clarity, perhaps. Penned in late 2016 How to Hide $400 Million: When a wealthy businessman set out to divorce his wife, their fortune vanished. The quest to find it would reveal the depths of an offshore financial system bigger than the U.S. economy, is a real eye-opener. Granted, the parties did not only live in New York and their divorces were filed in Canada and Florida. But they did have a connection to the state and the shenanigans that occurred in their case, happen all the time with certain New York divorce cases.
Getting out-spent by the City’s Billionaires
When millionaires divorce in New York, they have a rather unique and prickly problem: looking poor in the City’s court dockets and gossip rags. This is a weird issue because you would think that when you are a millionaire in Manhattan that you have it made. This is sort of true but not really becuase when your networth gets splashed across Page Six and people realize that compared to the Harry Macklowes and Donald Trumps that you are only worth $50 million dollars, relatively speaking, you can get an inferiority complex because $50 million is not really all that rich. Actually, that amount can’t even buy some high priced apartments in the city’s wealthiest enclaves! So, in fact, when some millionaires get divorced in New York, it can be very humbling. And that is pretty ironic.