Many of you may not have heard of Harry Macklowe. He is an 80-year-old man who happens to be one of the wealthiest men in the country, his fortune amassed in the real estate development industry. He has been married to his wife, Linda, for 57 years. Linda has a successful track record in philanthropy currently serving as a trustee of the Guggenheim Foundation.
It turns out that Harry met Patricia – Patricia Landau, a married woman from a wealthy family who happens to be president of the French Friends of Israel Museum in Jerusalem. It seems Harry met Patricia at fundraising event for French Friends. They had more meetings, and eventually began dating secretly. Apparently, Harry has a Park Avenue apartment for the two to “meet” privately.
As one might expect, Linda did not take the news of Harry and Patricia well. She filed for divorce and wants apparently more than half of Harry’s fortune, as he made that offer already and she allegedly rejected it.
How does this relate to we non-billionaires?
The saga of Harry and Linda and Patricia happens in many marriages in Missouri, if on a smaller scale. And the impact of a secret, lengthy adulterous affair does not affect only very wealthy people.
Under Missouri law, a trial court may consider marital misconduct in distributing marital property. While adultery alone cannot serve as the basis of an unequal distribution of property because Missouri is a no fault state, if marital funds were used to pay for the affair or one spouse has suffered in a significant way as a result of the affair, that level of misconduct will support an unequal distribution of property. So, in Harry’s case, funding a secret apartment for a secret lover and doing so with marital funds over a period of four years would definitely qualify as marital misconduct so that Linda would be entitled to more than 50% of the marital assets.
Also under Missouri law, a trial court may award maintenance to a spouse in a certain amount that addresses misconduct during the marriage. While maintenance tends to serve as a transitional payment to self-sufficiency as the former spouse adjusts to life after divorce, in marriages of long duration, maintenance can serve as a lifestyle-keeper, particularly if the marriage ended because of the misconduct of the other spouse.
So, regardless of age or wealth, the law works the same – it allows a court to punish marital misconduct through unequal property distribution or spousal support. But again, the misconduct must rise to a high level involving misuse of marital funds, not simply cheating on a spouse.
And Harry and Patricia? They plan on getting married…after they each get divorced.
If you have questions about marital misconduct and divorce, contact us – we can help.