Tag: Equitable Distribution Art

Property Division and Embryos

Property division of a couple’s embryos is back in the news again, and will increasingly be an important part of any divorce case, as more couples seek In Vitro fertilization and other assisted reproductive technology.

property division embryo

Modern Family

Many people recall that Modern Family actress Sofia Vergara was in a dispute with her former partner Nick Loeb over frozen embryos. They ended their engagement in May 2014, the year after they underwent in vitro fertilization treatment together, and he tried to gain full custody of the fertilized eggs to have them implanted in a surrogate.

In February a court granted Sofia a permanent injunction which would stop her former partner from being able to use the fertilized eggs to “create a child without the explicit written permission of the other person”.

Do agreements matter? When Peter Goldin, a 44-year-old communications director, and his husband decided to start a family through in vitro fertilization, they faced mounds of paperwork at the fertility clinic deciding what should happen to any remaining embryos in the case of divorce or separation?

The couple, who used one embryo to have a daughter, decided that if they broke up, Mr. Goldin would be the one who decided what to do with their one remaining embryo, since it was created with his sperm and a donor egg.

But Mr. Goldin said that when he and his husband separated last year, his husband no longer wanted him to have sole authority to determine what would happen to the embryo. “He had forgotten what he had signed at the clinic,” said Mr. Goldin, who, with the help of a lawyer, ultimately gained custody after a month of back and forth.

Florida Property Division

I’ve written about the Vergara case and the subject of property division in Florida many times before. Property division, or equitable distribution as it is called in Florida, is governed by statute and case law.

Generally, courts set apart to each spouse their nonmarital assets and debts, and then distribute the marital assets and debts between the parties.

Anyone who has been divorced knows the painful process well: disentangling finances, dividing possessions and mapping out custody arrangements for any children. And in recent years, with the use of artificial reproductive technologies on the rise, more couples have been confronting the even stickier question of what to do with frozen embryos.

In some states, consent agreements signed in fertility clinics, which can provide that embryos would be destroyed if the couple were to divorce have been determined to valid and enforceable contracts.

In New York, after a husband requested sole custody of the one remaining cryopreserved embryo and revoked his consent to use any of his genetic material, a court has narrowly read consent provisions and found such agreements permitted either party to withdraw consent to participation in the entire IVF process, and that the husband’s broadly worded revocation of consent was effective to revoke his consent to the continuation of the IVF process. The court awarded the remaining embryo to the husband, but only for the purpose of ensuring that NHF disposes of the embryo as provided in the Consent Agreement.

Divorce and Embryos

In the event of divorce, couples are not together anymore, probably don’t like each other, and if one person is going to use the embryo and have the child, that leaves the other person in an awkward spot.

For those who fail to plan for the worst, the results can be devastating. Couples who produce healthy embryos and freeze them for when they would be ready to have children face a problem years later when they want to divorce.

In many cases, judges have upheld agreements couples have signed at the fertility clinic, which say that the embryos could be brought to term only with the consent of both partners.

But as the New York Times reports:

“My state of mind at the time was complicated by cancer, being a newlywed and just this hope and opportunity to have children. It was unfathomable that that’s what would eventually determine that my last chance of having biological children would be taken away from me.”

Laws governing the disposition of frozen embryos vary from state to state. Judges have generally ruled in favor of the person who does not want to develop the embryo, but in Arizona, for example, the custody of disputed embryos goes to the party who wants to bring them to term.

Kathleen Pratt, 36, said that the process of poring over sheafs of legal documents to finalize the use of a surrogate led to several discussions with her husband, William, about what they would do with any remaining embryos if they divorced.

Ms. Pratt said her husband initially told her it made more sense to give her custody of remaining embryos — made with a donor egg and her husband’s sperm — because she was unable to have biological children. Then, Ms. Pratt said, she felt he should get to keep the embryos because they contained his genetic material, not hers.

Eventually they came to a decision: Neither should keep the embryos. Ms. Pratt, who lives in Charleston, S.C., remembers she and her husband saying to each other, “Why would we raise these babies outside of our family? If things go sour, let’s just call it a day.”

They ended up using both embryos to have a daughter in 2019 and a son last year. “I wouldn’t recommend anyone go through this with someone unless your relationship is solid,” she said.

The New York Times article is here.

Enforcing Your Multi-Million Dollar Property Division Award

Enforcing your property division award is world news when it arises in the divorce of Russian billionaire Farkhad Akhmedov and Tatiana Akhmedova taking place in a London courtroom. In a twist, Ms. Akhmedova is now suing her son for nearly $100 million in cash and assets to collect.

Property Division

From Russia with Love

Suing her son is a part of Ms. Akhmedova’s ongoing efforts to claim a portion of a $615 million divorce judgment, believed to be the largest in Britain’s history after a trial in 2016.

Her ex-husband has refused to hand over a single ruble and has kept his money, and himself, far away from Britain and the reach of its courts.

A new approach, enforce the award against her son, Temur, the older of the couple’s two sons, who is a U.K. resident who has plenty to seize.

His father gave his son a three-bedroom apartment next to Hyde Park worth about $40 million, when he was still in college, he is also the “registered keeper” of a $460,000 Rolls-Royce S.U.V., and is being sued under a theory that he is helping hide millions into trusts and tax havens around the world to frustrate his mother’s equitable distribution.

Florida Property Division

I’ve written about this case and the subject of property division in Florida many times before. Property division, or equitable distribution as it is called in Florida, is governed by statute and case law.

Generally, courts set apart to each spouse their nonmarital assets and debts, and then distribute the marital assets and debts between the parties.

In dividing the marital assets and debts though, the court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal. However, if there is a justification for an unequal distribution, as in the Akhmedov divorce, the court has the authority.

However, the court must base an unequal distribution on certain factors, including: the contribution to the marriage by each spouse; the economic circumstances of the parties, the duration of the marriage, or any interrupting of personal careers or education.

It has been a long-standing rule in Florida that an unequal distribution of marital assets may be justified to compensate for one spouse’s “intentional dissipation, waste, depletion or destruction of marital assets after filing of the petition….”

Moscow on Thames

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, London has been the place where rich and safety-minded Russians have parked their families, and at least some of their money.

The sons and daughters of these billionaires are now grown up, and Temur is part of a generation known for driving flashy cars and running up big tabs at posh restaurants in Knightsbridge and Mayfair.

In addition to mansions, a private jet, helicopters and masterpieces by artists like Rothko and Warhol, he bought a $500 million yacht, the Luna, from his fellow oligarch Roman Abramovich.

“It is 380 feet of floating luxury, with nine decks, space for 18 guests, a crew of 50 and — just in case — a missile detection system and bombproof doors.”

Allegations of infidelity made by both husband and wife led to divorce, but Mr. Akhmedov refused to even send a lawyer to the 2016 proceedings, arguing that the couple was already divorced. A court in Moscow dissolved the marriage in 2000, he said.

Temur is described in court as his father’s “lieutenant,” but he says he was more of a secretary than a second in command. When he lived and traveled with his father, he typed dictated messages, which he sent to Mr. Akhmedov’s team of advisers, bankers and lawyers. These were often instructions, adamant and profane, on how to evade Ms. Akhmedova and her financial backers.

One of Temur’s texts included a message about a plan to transfer about $100 million worth of art in Mr. Akhmedov’s collection from a storage facility in Liechtenstein to the Luna. The point of moving the works, Temur testified, was to make them readily viewable by his father.

“I don’t want to sound boasting or anything,” Temur replied, “but on a $500 million boat, $100 million paintings isn’t really something crazy. It’s nice to look at the paintings.”

Ms. Akhmedova testified first, and her tone reflected more sorrow than enmity. She’d helped her son decorate that deluxe apartment given to him by his father. But at some point she started to believe that Temur was part of an effort to thwart her pursuit of her divorce settlement.

Temur’s own time on the stand was far more tumultuous, once he actually showed up. On opening day, Dec. 2, he was in Moscow and said in open court, via video call, that he’d been advised that his mother’s lawyers might try to win a restraining order that could strip him of his passport.

Temur denounced his mother as opportunistic and greedy. She filed for divorce, he said, right after her now ex-husband sold Northgas. He said that she’d declined an out-of-court settlement of $100 million offered by his father, a sum the younger Mr. Akhmedov considered exceptionally generous given his mother’s history of infidelity.

The New York Times article is here.

 

The Art of Divorce

Dividing assets in a divorce is not only a requirement, it can be a difficult aspect of a divorce. If so, valuing an art collection is singularly one of the most disputed parts of a divorce. Not only is valuation a problem, but people are emotionally attached to their artwork as one billionaire couple in New York has found out.

art of divorce

Billionaire’s Row

The ex-husband is Harry Macklowe, a real estate developer. The ex-wife is Linda Macklowe, an honorary trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, who is passionate about collecting modern art.

Together they have accumulated a $72 million apartment, so large it runs the full length of one side of the Plaza Hotel, with windows overlooking Central Park. A second Manhattan apartment is high up in one of the tallest buildings in the Western Hemisphere, along the so-called Billionaires’ Row.

Their $19 million house in the Hamptons on Long Island has neighbors with boldface names, including Martha Stewart and Steven Spielberg. The $23.5 million yacht is a 150-foot-long prizewinner.

And then there is the art collection, an enormous trove of masterpieces that the judge presiding over the divorce described as “extraordinary” and “internationally renowned” and that has become the latest chapter in the exes’ rancorous unraveling. Among the more than 150 pieces are multiple works by Pablo Picasso, Jeff Koons, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko.

The exes’ lawyers have fought about what most of them were worth — one rare moment of agreement came when two art experts hired separately by the exes both valued an Andy Warhol creation filled with images of Marilyn Monroe at $50 million — and who should get them.

Florida Property Division

I have written about property division before. Florida is an equitable distribution state when it comes to dividing art in divorce. In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, in addition to all other remedies available to a court to do equity between the parties, a court must set apart to each spouse that spouse’s nonmarital assets and liabilities.

In distributing the marital assets and liabilities between the parties, the court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution.

Whenever an agreement cannot be made between the spouses, the court’s distribution of marital assets or marital liabilities must be supported by factual findings and be based on competent evidence. Whether the court distributes artwork equally or not, the court must make specific written findings of fact as to each marital asset and the individual valuation of significant assets, and designation of which spouse shall be entitled to each asset.

Because an effective valuation is important, most attorneys will hire an expert appraiser to provide the appropriate report and testimony to the court.

It’s Up to You New York, New York

The Macklowes’ divorce comes with the twist of an impressive art collection that has been valued at as much as nearly $1 billion. In 2016, Mr. Macklowe told Ms. Macklowe that the marriage was over. By the end of last year, the Macklowes’ divorce had been granted. Mr. Macklowe then put giant images of himself and Patricia Landeau, his new wife, on the side of a luxury condominium building in Manhattan that he built.

But the wrangling continued over how to divide an art collection that David N. Redden, a former vice chairman of Sotheby’s, called “fairly staggering” and “one of the great prizes.” In the Macklowes’ divorce, the former spouses had to unload the art “to sustain their lifestyle. They don’t have the cash.” About 60 to 75 percent of their assets were tied up in the art collection.

As for the value of the art, during the lower-court proceeding, each side hired an expert to appraise the art. Mr. Macklowe’s expert estimated the value at $788 million; Ms. Macklowe’s expert said $625 million.

“If this had been a case with one or two fewer zeros, it would be an ordinary kind of dispute. Because of the prominence of the parties and the amount of money involved, this is a case that attracts natural attention.”

Ms. Macklowe did not want to let anything go. “She stated that she wished to enjoy the collection and sell individual pieces only as necessary to support her standard of living.” That would have posed tax problems for Mr. Macklowe. The wife wanted all the major pieces of art to go to her, and she would decide what to sell and when to sell it. The husband would have to pay taxes on what would be sold, because the value that would be attributed to the works would be the after-tax value. She would keep the art, the art would get sold and he would pay the taxes.

The New York Times article is here.