April 20, 2017

The Big Case

The Big Divorce Case JM v LM


"You can't change yesterday, but you can create a better tomorrow."  

~Ellen Wanamaker



This was my most complex case, most diversified and challenging. The client (Ms. M.) engaged me initially to assist in completion of her Case Information Statement (financial affidavit for the court) in May 2008.

This was a contentious divorce with an unscrupulous spouse. The husband was an attorney. He was the CFO of his family's business, handling the finances for the two owners, his brother and sister who lived thousands of miles away.

Mr. M was investigated by the FBI during the divorce process for white collar crimes for defrauding 3 banks. He also bankrupted his family's multi-million dollar corporation. Mr. M. ultimately pled guilty to bank fraud/check kiting and was sentenced to 3 years in Federal Prison.

Working to get his wife a fair division of their assets was like swimming uphill as you will see.




Throughout the divorce proceedings, Ms. M's attorney sought out my strategic approaches which were incorporated into all negotiations, mediations and the final agreement.

We incorporated a safety net into the agreement, making certain obligations of the husband would be paid to my client from the sale of two condos, “should Mr. M. default”. For additional insurance, we included a mortgage on the properties to secure the alimony that we knew he would default on.

After two court appearances and considerable investment of time and money into the properties, the Court had to order the husband to sign the listing agreements on September 1, 2009 on the newly renovated properties.

We worked closely with the realtor on marketing and the ideal “designed to sell” appearances. Both properties had bidding wars and had contracts within 6 weeks, while the real estate market was in a depressed state.



The first condo sold quickly. With delays from the buyer's financing company, liens against the husband began to surface, none of them being “traditional."

One was a $250,000 bond due to his guilty plea in Federal Court. There were two $3.9 million dollar outstanding business loans. Also there was a business debt resulting from a default in a civil settlement agreement.

After two months of my intensive contact with the various attorneys involved, the liens were resolved and the second property was sold in February of 2009. My client recovered her investment and received 96% of her equitable distribution.

The mortgage funds remained in escrow. Mr. M. was holding it hostage, refusing to agree to release the money. After numerous attempts at negotiation for the release of the funds that represented the alimony, my client retained her last attorney to go to court in January 2011.

I prepared the Certification with the numerous exhibits from the entire case history. Finally my client received the full $75,000 in alimony arrears and her attorney’s fees.



In summary, my client received $185,000 in debt relief, the home valued at $480,000, and $153,000 in cash from the condo sales and the judge's court order. In total she received a $818,000.

Her former husband has been sentenced to 44 months in federal prison. He was guilty of stealing over $8 million dollars from two banking institutions and his family’s 70 year old company, owned by his siblings and elderly mother.

Despite his attempts to burden her with his debt and deny her any money after a 34 year marriage, my client was able to escape this man’s financial terrorism unscathed. Alternatively, the sophisticated banking institutions and family corporation suffered millions of dollars in losses and accumulated debt. 

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Ellen is a Women’s Financial Specialist and has been a federally licensed tax practitioner for more than 25 years. She has expanded from the divorce specialty to a broader financial practice, helping women in many stages of life set up their finances on autopilot. She is also the author of the popular e-book "Divorce Starter Tools Women Need."