After sixty-seven years, it’s time for a divorce, but this isn’t just any ol’ divorce.
Burt and Lucille Handelsman own a real estate empire that includes the shops on Worth Avenue. With an estimated $500 million in real estate holdings stretching from bars in Key West to real estate in New York, the couple is calling it quits, but not amicably, unfortunately, a common occurrence when it comes to the dissolution of marriage.
The contentious divorce started with Burt Handelsman refusing to provide temporary financial support to his wife. It’s a given she is entitled to alimony considering the length of marriage and the parties financial situation. Besides denying temporary alimony, Burt Handelsman filed lawsuits against his children who in return counter-sued, claiming that their father used forged documents to defraud them out of $8 million. Wife Lucille claims that her husband is involved in an extra-marital relationship with their long-time lawyer, allegations which Burt denies.
At issue was also bifurcating the trial, meaning grant the divorce immediately and settle the financial issues at a later point in time. Bifurcation was sought by Lucille Handelsman based on her age. The Judge denied that request as Ms. Handelsman’s health did not seem to be an issue. The reality is that was a financial decision because via the divorce process, Ms. Handelsman would be entitled to half of the marital assets, but if she passed away before the end of the case, her part of the estate would be subject to probate court where her and her children would receive less.
I faced this issue once with one of my cases. An agreement was reached at Mediation against my advice. No agreement was signed to formalize the matter since it was late in the evening and everyone was tired and wanted to call it a day. However, the following day, the Husband passed away.
I received a call from the Husband’s attorney that his client signed the agreement and my client had to as well. I advised him that would not happen because she would receive the entire “estate” as his wife. While he objected, the fact is couples decide all the time to not sign a divorce agreement for a multitude of reasons, including reconciliation. As a general rule, you want to walk away from mediation with a signed agreement if it favors you, just in case the other party changes their mind. In this scenario, it was one of the few times that didn’t happen and my client benefited from it financially.
The Handelsman trial started on February 5th. At issue now is the couple’s million dollar shaving mug collection.
Mr. Handelsman testified this week it was he that started the collection of more than 1,500 mugs and for that reason, he should be entitled to keep it, even though he admitted his wife bought the first one. Mr. Handelsman also testifed that he owns the finest collection in the United States and dividing it would reduce its value. The antique shaving mugs was popular at one point in time when people received shaves from their barber. Mr. Handelsman even created a foundation to preserve the mugs.
At issue also with the mugs is that Lucille claims the mugs were bequeathed to their real estate lawyer, the same attorney she claims is having an affair with her husband.
Alexander Hernandez, Esq.