In most cases, your divorce will have a profound impact on your life, but won’t blow it up entirely. It’s fair to say that’s even a goal of matrimonial law here. New York protects the confidentiality of the claims and counterclaims made during a divorce, so even when a couple splits up due to misbehavior by one or both parties, the risk of exposure is highly curtailed.
That said, some divorces can go into a different realm of nastiness, causing ramifications far beyond the couple, and even costing people their jobs and their employers lucrative clients.
A notable example of an ugly divorce of an altogether different magnitude is the 2014 action between Sage Kelly, then 42, an investment banker who headed the health care division at Wall Street’s Jefferies & Co., and his then-wife Christina Di Mauro, 39. The couple had been married for twelve years and had two daughters, then 10 and 6, and lived on Fifth Avenue, with a summer home on Sag Harbor, Long Island.
The divorce appears to have begun normally enough, with a mid-year filing in Manhattan Supreme Court. Kelly then sought, and won, a temporary custody order of their daughters, alleging a history of substance abuse on the part of his wife. That appears to have triggered a nuclear reaction on the part of Di Mauro, who took the case outside of the more confidential arena of divorce court and launched a made-for-the-tabloids lawsuit against her husband.
In the filing, she demanded a $7M payout in damages for the order restricting access to her kids, and made a laundry list of salacious allegations available for public review. Among them, she claimed:
That her husband introduced her to cocaine, and that both of them ended up addicted. She said he was only interested in sex when they were using drugs.
That 20 of her husband’s friends, clients, and business associates, whom she named, were regular participants in his drug benders.
That they engaged in wife-swapping with his business clients to land lucrative contracts for his company.
That they routinely used cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, ketamine, MDMA, and psilocybin together.
That their 10-year-old daughter once stuck her finger into a bag of cocaine that had been left out at their Sag Harbor home.
Husband Kelly was soon on a leave of absence from his $7M a year job, and his employer was forced to subject every named person in their employ to drug screenings, which reportedly all returned clear. Clients reportedly fled in droves as the New York Daily News, New York Post, and other media latched onto the story. Earnings for the affected quarter were down, though the company denied there was a connection.
The couple – with significant pressure on Kelly – moved swiftly to reach a settlement in the divorce, and about a month after the lawsuit was filed, they came to terms for a joint custody agreement. Di Mauro released a public apology to her husband’s employer, stating, “A substantial portion of what has been written in the press and other media over the past few weeks is inaccurate, untrue or hyperbolic, and I apologize to those who have been affected thereby – including those at Jefferies.” She said that her soon-to-be ex-husband was a man of “high integrity” and a “great father,” though she did not recant any specific claims from her lawsuit.
Amazingly, the statement also noted, “The presentation of the facts in divorce proceedings is a function of subjective viewpoints.”
Even with the public apology, overcoming such a public attack on one’s reputation in any professional setting is difficult, especially when colleagues and clients have been dragged into the mud as well. By the end of the year, Kelly had left Jefferies & Co., and would remain on the sidelines professionally for more than 15 months.
The judge in the case, Matthew Cooper, was scathing in his final comments to the couple when they stood before him in January 2015 with their settlement in hand. “This has been a very upsetting, difficult experience for this court,” he told them.
“Your children will forever be able to read allegations about their parents on the Internet as a result of papers provided to the public,” he said, knowing that had things stayed in his divorce court, these allegations would never have been made public, careers would not have been affected, and even corporate bottom lines would have come through unscathed.
The couple’s children were an abiding concern for him, referring to them as, “These innocent children [who] have been caught up in this horrible, horrible fiasco.”
Any judge is going to be unhappy to see these kinds of hardball tactics deployed in a case that could have, and arguably should have, been negotiated under their rules. Still, once the pair developed a settlement, as long as it met basic guidelines, the judge had little recourse but to accept it and send the parties their separate ways.
According to media reports, the city’s Administration for Children’s Services chose not to take action against the couple, despite the loud claims in Di Mauro’s lawsuit that their parenting put their children at risk. Kelly’s former employer seems to have come through the ordeal intact, and he himself is back at work on Wall Street with another firm.
While divorce court can be an ugly place, fighting it out anywhere else can be far more damaging. At Zelenitz, Shapiro & D’Agostino, we take our clients’ privacy seriously, and make every effort to prevent confidential and prejudicial information or allegations from leaving the safety of a legal framework that isn’t available to the public.
Whether you’re a Wolf of Wall Street or just a person who wants to hang on to a good job and a good relationship with your kids, your needs are the same. If you’re considering divorce in Brooklyn and want to protect yourself from public scrutiny, call us today at 718-725-9601 for a free consultation.