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“Don’t get mad, get everything”

Date: March 28th, 2014 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

DivorceThis delightfully inflammatory title is a quote from Ivana Trump in the movie “The First Wives Club”.  This hugely successful movie focused on revenge in divorce cases.

As family lawyers we all come across cases where people’s behaviour during their divorce can be seen at its worst.  In 2005 headlines were made when a controversial Birmingham radio DJ flirted live on air with glamour model Jodie Marsh telling her that he was prepared to leave his wife and two children for her.  His wife Hayley was listening and immediately posted an advert on eBay for his beloved Lotus Esprit Turbo with a “buy it now” option of 50p.  The item description read “I need to get rid of this car in the next 2 to 3 hours before my husband gets home to find it gone and all his belongings on the street.”  The car sold within five minutes.

In 2008 the founder of Pineapple studios Tricia Walsh-Smith attracted international attention after posting a YouTube video of herself talking about her husband Philip Smith; an extremely wealthy and well known CEO of a U.S. organisation.  In the video she stated she was going to be unfairly evicted from her house under the terms of a pre-nuptial agreement she made various humiliating allegations about her husband, claiming she had discovered that her 77 year old husband had been hoarding the impotence drug Viagra even though they allegedly had never had sex.  Mr Smith took Tricia Walsh-Smith to court about those allegations.

 A woman scorned: Tricia Walsh-Smith posts her marital frustrations on You Tube.

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In 2010 Kevin Fiore from Staffordshire sawed all of the furniture in his former family home in half carefully labelling each half as between himself and his former wife.  This pales into insignificance next to the story of the U.S. doctor Nicholas Bartha who in 2006 died of injuries he sustained after he blew up his New York town house rather than hand it over to his former wife as part of his divorce settlement.

These cases are not limited to people who are unfamiliar with the law.  The case of Kavanagh v Kavanagh two wealthy solicitors spent five years arguing over everything ranging from their children to their finances and ultimately lost their £3,000,000 home, running up nearly £1,000,000 worth of legal costs in the process.

Among these we should not forget the spectacular fallout from the break-up of former cabinet minister Chris Huhne from his wife economist Vicky Pryce who told a newspaper she took speeding points on behalf of her husband while they were married.  The net result of this confession was a prolonged court case, and prison sentences for both parties.

These cases may make interesting stories but ultimately we have to remember the true human cost of behaviour like this.   Divorce is often traumatic enough not only for the people involved but also for children.  Perhaps the best lesson comes from Lady Sarah Graham-Moon who became a poster child for scorned wives when in 1992 she festooned her husband’s, Sir Peter Graham-Moon, expensive BMW with two cans of paint and pinned his boxer shorts to the aerial when the car was parked outside his girlfriend’s house.  She cut up her husband’s expensive Savile Row suits, chopping six inches off every sleeve.  She destroyed his Cuban cigars by stamping on them and deposited his bottles of vintage wine on doorsteps around the neighbourhood including leaving forty carefully arranged around a war memorial.  The press were ironically tipped off by her husband when he was loudly discussing the antics of his “mad” wife in a pub.  Generally the press were extremely sympathetic to Lady Sarah Graham-Moon.  But when interviewed later Moon admitted that her behaviour had ended all chances of an amicable settlement, and she ended up apparently living in a basement flat in Swindon feeling “completely wretched”.   Her advice to people thinking about revenge is simple: “Being seen to be happy is the greatest revenge.”

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