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Nassau County Family Law Blog

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Bad Behavior In New York Divorce Case Leads to Interesting Result

What can be considered when a court is determining which spouse will pay attorneys fee?

It is no secret that divorce cases can become very contentious.  While the wide range of emotions usually present in these cases is often to blame, when the financial stakes are high the conflicts involved can become even more intense.  A recent New York case between two wealthy individuals has shown just how messy these cases can get.

Indian nationals, Mohan and Guni Murjani, were married and lived an extravagant lifestyle.  Both were beneficiaries of an international trust fund set up by Mohan’s wealthy father worth upwards of $50 million.  The father was a giant in the Asian garment industry and Mohan followed in his footsteps.  As a fashion merchandiser and financier, Mohan was instrumental in funding fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger and bringing the brand to India.

Unfortunately, Mohan and Guni decided to divorce and filed an action in Manhattan Supreme Court almost three years ago.  Conflicts immediately arose.  When deciding which party should pay attorneys’ fees, the Supreme Court judge could not determine who the monied spouse was.  This was in part due to the complex nature of the couple’s finances, which included large sums of cash, the trust fund, United States and international real estate holdings, valuable art collections and jewelry, among other things.  The difficulty was also partly due to the fact that neither party had been entirely honest about his or her financial situation.  As such, the judge thought it appropriate to consider the parties conduct in the case when making her decision.  She found that although neither party had been totally honest with the court, Guni’s behavior was particularly bad.  Guni had illegally moved the couple’s art collection to London after the case had started and filed a divorce action in Bombay to hinder the action her husband had filed in New York.  She also filed an improper jurisdictional claim years after the case had been filed.

In light of Guni’s behavior, the judge ordered her to pay her husband’s attorneys’ fees.  She was ordered to deposit $750,000 into an escrow account and was also sanctioned and fined  $15,000 for making the frivolous claim.  Guni appealed the decisions to the Appellate Division First Department and both were upheld.

Mohan has also retained five different attorneys since the case began, which shows how complex and chaotic these cases can become if not handled properly from the outset.  If you are facing a divorce and anticipate that there will be intense conflict over financial or other issues, Nassau County, New York attorney Howard B. Leff has experience in all types of family law and matrimonial litigation.  Contact his office by calling (516)739-7500 today.


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