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DIVORCE SETTLEMENTS - HOW MUCH MONEY IS ENOUGH? OR MAYBE IT'S NOT ABOUT THE MONEY

Within the context of divorce a frequently asked question is "how much money is it going to take to get this case settled? Is there a formula, mathematical calculation or rule of thumb which applies? If my many years as a divorce attorney have taught me anything it is the fact that divorce settlements are frequently not the product of monetary considerations or financial spreadsheets alone but are often inextricably tied to the emotions of the parties - emotions such as anger, rejection, humiliation and revenge.


The accuracy of this statement is currently exemplified by the New York divorce case between billionaire John Paulson and his long-standing wife, Jenny Paulson. Both parties are represented by high-profile, experienced divorce attorneys [I have no personal involvement in this case] and public relations firms which are seeking to seize the moral "high ground" for their clients while painting the other side as as an unreasonable and avaricious villain.


Recent news articles have asserted that John Paulson offered his wife of twenty one years and the mother of his two daughters "hundreds of millions in cash" , as well as a split of the marital assets - an offer which Jenny characterized as "humiliating and demeaning." According to sources aligned with John, he offered Jenny hundreds of millions upfront and millions in additional yearly amounts - which would make her "one of the richest women in America. " However, Jenny countered that this proposal is less than the amount of money he has set aside for their children and represents an "allowance" or "gimmick created to control her."


Unquestionably, both parties and counsel have and continue to make statements about the fairness or lack of fairness of the settlement offers made so far. For example, Jenny alleges that during the marriage John set up a secretive web of trusts, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, for the benefit of the children and "Paulson's legal wife" - the benefits of which trusts Jenny loses upon a divorce, in favor of the next “Mrs. Paulson” who already is engaged to John and is now waiting in the wings. For his part, John notes that the unwinding of the trusts demanded by Jenny will cost almost one billion dollars in taxes and thereby deprive the children of their rightful inheritance.


Whatever the correctness of the Paulson's respective legal positions I believe there is a much larger lesson to be learned from this case by all of those people who are about to begin, have started or are in the middle of a divorce case. Make sure that you do not publicly embarrass, humiliate, demean or denigrate your soon to be ex-spouse. There is a high price to be paid for such behavior and sometimes it is a price that is incapable of payment in simple dollars and cents - even millions of them.


Returning to the Paulson case for a moment, according to Jenny, in October of 2021 she found out that her billionaire hubby had filed for divorce and run off with a woman half his age by reading about it in Page Six of the NY Post. In Jenny's own words this astonishing discovery left her "blind-sided and devastated." Shortly thereafter, John and his thirty three year old fitness influencer, Alina de Almeida, moved into one of John's apartments together. Since then they have been constantly seen and photographed together at various high profile parties/media events and recently announced their engagement and mutual desire to have children.


When Jenny declares that she feels demeaned, humiliated and disrespected she is not simply talking about the amount of money offered by John in his settlement offers. Rather it is the totality of the things that she has been publicly forced to endure since his divorce filing. In this regard, I would reprise one of the stories from my book "An Elephant Doesn't Marry A Giraffe- Everything I Learned As A Divorce Attorney." Once, a divorce attorney was going over the list of demands with a client made by the man's wife. "Oh and she wants you to rot in hell for all eternity. But I think that's negotiable." In some cases rotting in hell for all eternity is not negotiable, as Mr. Paulson and other divorcing spouses are finding out.


Finally, it is important to note that the significance of this fundamental point is not limited to those cases involving the rich and famous. Even in those cases where the parties are not dividing millions of dollars but much more modest assets, the misconduct, denigration and mean-spirited antics of one of the spouses will still represent a negative if not overwhelming obstacle to the amicable resolution of a divorce case, thereby driving up the cost of legal fees and expenses for everyone and prolonging the agony of an already difficult life circumstance. Caveat Client ! Your conduct matters.




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