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Wife Seeks New York Divorce to Retain Expensive Gifts from Husband

The difference between a divorce in New York and one tried in Monaco could be $70 million for Tracey Hejailan-Amon, according to a recent story in the New York Post. That is roughly the value of gifts her husband, Swiss businessman Maurice Alain Amon, gave her during their eight-year marriage, when the couple had homes in Monaco, France, Switzerland and New York. Under Monaco’s divorce law, a spouse can take back gifts given during the marriage. But, the Post reports, if the divorce was heard in New York, Ms. Hejailan-Amon would be able to keep the gifts, which include “a $15 million Fifth Avenue apartment, jewelry, cars, art and furnishings.” The Post story also cites “half of a $25 million art collection the couple built during their marriage” as possible spoils, if the divorce is decided under New York’s equitable distribution laws.

But the Post story needs some clarification. It is true that under New York law a spouse retains, as separate property, all gifts and inheritances received during the marriage, except for gifts from the spouse. Those gifts are part of the marital estate and subject to equitable distribution. As for the art collection, equitable distribution does not entitle a spouse to half of anything. Instead, the court divides the property in a manner it views as equitable based on factors such as the length of the marriage and the relative contributions of the spouses to building up the marital estate. If Ms. Hejailan-Amon is simply a “gold digger’ as Mr. Amon’s attorney has called her, their relatively short marriage might not persuade a judge to be generous in awarding marital property.

Venue-shopping is nothing new for high-value divorces. In fact, many couples put venue clauses in their prenuptial agreements to stipulate that a divorce, if it comes, will be decided under the laws of a particular state or nation. It is possible that even under a correct reading of New York divorce law, Ms. Hejailan-Amon could get more favorable treatment here than in Monaco.

However, jurisdiction is questionable. For a New York court to hear a divorce case, a spouse must have been a resident of the state for one or two years, depending on other circumstances. The Post account asserts that Ms. Hejailan-Amon “doesn’t file taxes, vote or have a driver’s license in New York,” while noting the other residences in France, Monaco, and Switzerland.

Property division is a crucial part of most Long Island divorces. For reliable counsel from experienced divorce attorneys, contact Jakubowski, Robertson, Maffei, Goldsmith & Tartaglia to schedule a consultation.