Family Law Focus – Cozen O'Connor

Taking “Stand By Your Man” To A New Level

shutterstock_125804567I recently commented on CNN about the bizarre headline grabbing case involving LA Clipper’s owner, Donald Sterling (see Clip here). The focus of my interview, however, was not Mr. Sterling himself, but the battle between his wife of more than fifty years, Rochelle, and his friend, former personal assistant and alleged mistress, V. Stiviano.

Prior to the controversy involving Mr. Sterling regarding the alleged racial remarks he made which were recorded by Stiviano, Rochelle Sterling sued Stviano for the return of marital property that was allegedly given to Stiviano by Donald Sterling.  This included luxury vehicles and a monthly stipend.  The lawsuit is highly unusual and as a practitioner of family law for more than twenty years, I can safely say, I have never seen anything like it.

What is not unusual is for a party to a divorce to claim that their cheating spouse dissipated marital property by lavishing their paramour with gifts. Dissipation of assets by one spouse without the knowledge of the other is a factor that a Court can often consider in dividing up marital property in a divorce. Here, however, Rochelle Sterling is “standing by her man,” and not divorcing him despite knowing full well that he took marital assets, her assets, and spent them on Ms. Stiviano  obviously without Rochelle Sterling’s consent.  She is trying to get the assets back from Stiviano instead. Whether this strategy is successful remains unclear.  It is also interesting that Mr. Sterling is not involved in the lawsuit either as Plaintiff or Defendant.  One wonders whether the Court will join him in this case, as he was clearly involved in the transfer of assets.

What is definite is that we have not heard the last of the Sterlings.  We will see whether Rochelle takes a more active role of the ownership of the Clippers.  And from a legal perspective, we will see whether her unique lawsuit serves as a model for future lawsuits of spouses suiting alleged paramours

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