The Countess and the Mogul: Bad Divorce Law

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Reform of divorce laws in light of the ways in which many women end up much worse off than their ex-husbands after divorce remains a huge problem for those of us concerned about Gender Justice.

But consider the current divorce case in the news of Marie Douglas-David, the 37 year-old woman who in 2002 douglas-davidmarried George David, a 67 year-old Connecticut executive who has a reported net worth of $329 million.   Prior to the marriage Douglas-Davis was an asset manager at Lazard Asset Management (and, um, a Swedish countess) who quit her job when she married David so that she could travel and entertain with him.

When the relationship hit the rocks after two years (evidently they both had affairs – he with a woman he met at a flower shop and she with a Swedish fencing champion) they entered into a post-nuptial agreement to the effect that upon dissolution of the marriage Marie would receive a $43 million settlement.   According to the Huffington Post, “Douglas-David wants the agreement invalidated. She’s asking to be awarded about $100 million in cash and stock, plus $130,000 a month in alimony.”   She maintains that her essential weekly expenses include $250 for a personal trainer, $700 for limousine services, $4,500 for clothes, $1,000 for hair and skin treatments, $1,500 for restaurants and entertainment, $2,209 for her personal assistant, $1,570 for horse care, $600 for flowers and $8,000 for travel.   In case you missed it, these are expenses per week.   (To be fair, he claims ten times as much in weekly expense: Clothes $2,500, Yacht maintenance $95,943, Eating out $1,773, Travel $7,491, Charities $18,042, Entertainment $7,125, Wife’s residences $67,12.   Who can’t relate to the crushing burden of the weekly “yacht maintenance” bill?   Source for these numbers. )

This case makes me crazy.

When Marie Douglas married George David she seems to have morphed from a competent, even shrewd, investment banker into a vulnerable, defenseless wife who was a victim of her husband’s power and prestige. Her lawyer has argued in court that she thought she was in“a loving, sound marriage”until she found e-mails disclosing an affair between her husband and a younger woman.   Shocking, shocking!   (Oh wait, George had a previous wife with whom he had had three children, and he met Marie when she, a woman less than half his age, invested in George’s business on behalf of Lazard.   Maybe the whole “younger woman-thing” is not so shocking.)

Marie, a woman with a serious, lucrative and successful career, junked it all when she met George, more than twice her age, and became a kept housewife.   In the divorce lawsuit Marie maintains that she shouldn’t be held to the terms of the $43 million post-nup.   Her lawyer argued in his opening statement …   read remainder of post

– Katherine Franke

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