Gusty A.E. Sunseri & Associates, P.C. Attorneys at Law

Financier tries to argue that property division should favor him

When a divorce gets acrimonious, at least one spouse usually objects to the idea of evenly splitting the couple's money. As one might expect, the objecting spouse is usually the breadwinner, but in some cases they could have brought assets to the marriage in ways other than work that they feel they alone were responsible for.

One wealthy financier recently tried to make the argument in court that an even property division in his divorce would not be fair, because the accumulation of property (around $450 million) was so completely due to his talents as a businessman. He proposed to have expert witnesses testify to his business genius.

Pittsburgh divorce attorneys were intrigued by the idea that the financier would propose to scientifically prove that he was uniquely responsible for the amassing of the family's fortune. The financier wanted to have three psychologists testify to his "innate intellectual talents" and "unique personal traits."

The financier's argument had its own logic, but the judge in the case was not convinced by it. She pointed out that what she must weigh are the contributions of each spouse to the marriage, not to their business dealings. The financier's wife did not work outside of the home during their thirty years of marriage, but nonetheless she contributed to the marriage in other ways. Even if she did not contribute to the making of money (and the judge was not convinced that she was unhelpful in that way), she did manage the couple's social life and did most of the parenting of their daughter.

If the financier had been allowed to prove that the marital property was mostly his because of his abilities, then nothing would prevent other spouses from making the same arguments, even if they were arguing about less than $450 million or lesser abilities. The financier may be a business genius, but his legal reasoning has a long way to go.

Source: Dealb%k "In Divorce Case, Judge Refuses to Hear Evidence of 'Genius'" Aug. 4, 2011

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