In this case, the court begins as follows:
“The relationship between the parties evidences a classic, unequal power dynamic which is the hallmark of abusive relationships. The parties met in 1989 when plaintiff was only twenty-one years old, having recently moved to New York City from Puerto Rico, and was working several jobs to support a modest lifestyle. Defendant was a successful businessman, fifteen years plaintiff’s senior, who quickly began providing plaintiff with a sizable allowance and induced him to quit his jobs. In addition to his financial dependence on defendant, plaintiff was largely ignorant of the parties’ financial circumstances, how decisions were made, how property was acquired and financed, or how bills were paid over their decades-long relationship. Disturbingly, this unequal dynamic was evident in the parties’ intimate life, where defendant used his power as the breadwinner to instill fear and coerce plaintiff to engage in risky, unprotected group-sex while defendant watched. As a result, plaintiff contracted HIV and was later diagnosed with full-blown AIDS.
Now that the relationship has ended, plaintiff, ill and largely supported by public assistance benefits, seeks maintenance from defendant in place of the financial support he received from defendant both before and during their marriage. Because he believes that defendant cannot be relied on to make monthly payments of maintenance, he requests that it be paid in one large lump sum, and because he is dependent on government health benefits to cover his astronomical medical expenses, he seeks to have that money paid into a Special Needs Trust (“SNT “). Plaintiff also seeks a substantial award of equitable distribution, contending that the parties owned significant real and personal property and that defendant is the longtime owner of a lucrative business. As with maintenance, plaintiff askes that defendant be required to pay the distributive award into an SNT. Finally, plaintiff seeks a judgment for arrears resulting from defendant’s failure to pay court-ordered temporary maintenance.
Further complicating this case is defendant’s sudden and mysterious “unforeseen financial hardship,” which conveniently began at the time this divorce commenced, and which he claims makes him unable to pay maintenance and leaves no assets to be equitably divided. Added to this is defendant’s repeated failure to provide documentation to verify his claimed loss of income and assets alongside his complete failure to comply with plaintiff’s discovery demands. These failings on defendant’s part, coupled with the plaintiff’s lack of knowledge about the couple’s finances while they were together, greatly hindered plaintiff’s ability to demonstrate the actual state of defendant’s financial affairs. It also hindered my ability to make precise financial determinations, despite having conducted a three-day trial to resolve the issues of equitable distribution, spousal maintenance, and temporary maintenance arrears.”
G.R. v K.R., 2020 NY Slip Op 50976(U), Decided on August 21, 2020, Supreme Court, New York County, Cooper, J.
NOTE: Marital assets were distributed 50 percent for non-business and 15 percent for business ($880,000) and maintenance for 10 years ($2,250 monthly).