Remember that divorce settlements are written in stone
Divorce is a tricky water to navigate. There are various threads of emotion going on that deal with love, loss and fear of the future that make dealing with the barebones of the proceedings—the paperwork, the negotiations, etc.—hard to deal with. That's why I preach patience with every case, and that each of my clients has a clear head when they sign the final paperwork because there is no going back to amend anything.
A perfect example of this played out in a New York Courtroom recently. The divorce of Steven Simkin and Laura Blank riveted the Big Apple legal world because of its ties to the Ponzi-Scheme baron Bernie Madoff. However, the two finalized divorce proceedings in 2006—what brought their case back into the limelight? When the duo split, they divvied up the $13 million in assets the couple shared. However, Blank decided to take cash and property while Simkin chose to keep the investments worth at the time around $7 million. Unfortunately for him, those investments were with Madoff, whose investment group was defrauding its investors.
In no short time, Simkin had been left with nothing. So he decided to man up and… re-sue his ex-wife to compensate him for his losses. Basically his ice cream fell on the ground and he wanted Blank to split hers with him. Uh, not so fast—after first being rebuffed in court in 2008, Simkin decided to try again and a New York appellate court decided to hear the case.
Last week, however, Simkin was finally put out of his misery as the New York Court of Appeals decided that just because all his assets lost their value, he had no grounds to take what Blank had legally taken away from the marriage. According to Judge Victoria A. Graffeo,
"This situation, however sympathetic, is more akin to a martial asset that unexpectedly loses value after dissolution of a marriage. The asset had value at the time of the settlement but the purported value did not remain consistent…"
So keep this in mind if and when you're dividing property with your soon-to-be-ex. Your Beanie Baby or baseball card collection could be worth a bunch now, but it's probably wisest to take some assured assets as well at the end of the day.