A judge has reduced by more than one-third the direct spousal and child support sought by the wife of real estate investor Anthony Westreich, departing from the letter of Domestic Relations Law that the standard when setting temporary maintenance level should be keeping the economic status quo.
Nassau Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey Goodstein determined that Dale and Anthony Westreich’s pre-separation lifestyle was so “lavish,” and concessions he ordered Anthony Westreich to make so extensive, that the judge could not justify meeting Dale Westreich’s $97,000-a-month request for direct spousal support.
He ordered Anthony Westreich, the CEO of Monday Properties, to pay his wife $30,000 a month.
Goodstein acknowledged in Westreich v. Westreich, 201348/2013, that “maintaining the status quo of the parties” is a purpose of temporary maintenance under §236B of Domestic Relations Law.
But he wrote that the Westreichs “lived a lifestyle most people can hardly fathom” before they separated. And even with the reduced spousal support, Dale Westreich’s lifestyle would still approximate the one she enjoyed when she was with her husband.
“It is this court’s belief that the legislative intent of making the status quo a factor in determining temporary maintenance was not meant for a case of this magnitude,” Goodstein wrote from Mineola on Aug. 1.
The judge added, “It is this court’s belief that the status quo is meant to maintain the comforts of the lifestyle to which one has become accustomed; however, there must be a limit to such comforts.”
Perhaps most importantly, the judge said, his crafting of a temporary maintenance approach allows Dale Westreich to continue living in the marital home—an eight-bedroom, nine-bath home on 9.56 acres in Old Westbury—and not force her to move to a “three-bedroom apartment in a less affluent neighborhood.”
“It is this court’s view that the award … does not limit the wife’s reasonable needs in any regard,” Goodstein wrote.
Dale Westreich is being represented by Cohen Rabin Stine Schumann partners Harriet Cohen and Bonnie Rabin.
Partner Stephen Schlissel and attorney Joseph DeMarco of Schlissel Ostrow Karabatos of Garden City are representing Anthony Westreich.
The judge directed Anthony Westreich to pay $136,000 a month to cover expenses for his wife and their two children ranging from taxes, insurance and maintenance on the Old Westbury home to the costs of maintaining the couple’s other homes in Southampton and Sea Island, Ga., plus medical and education costs.
Goodstein denied Dale Westreich’s request for a separate monthly child support payment, saying the couple could cover the costs of their two children, aged 11 and 10, from their other assets and from the $30,000-a-month support payments.
As to counsel fees, Goodstein noted that the lawyers retained by each spouse are among the “elite in their field” and called “astronomical” the amount they’ve been billed so far. But the judge added that many of the charges by the wife’s lawyers were “vague.”
Goodstein ordered Anthony Westreich to pay interim counsel fees of $250,000 at this point, saying it would be “unjust and inappropriate” to award full fees because the litigation is unfolding and the billings are difficult to sort out.
Dale Westreich had requested $850,000 in counsel fees.
Goodstein also denied Anthony Westreich’s request that his wife be made to return about $2 million he said she withdrew from one of the couple’s accounts in April 2013, a month prior to the divorce action. But the judge said Dale Westreich could use some of those funds to meet the expenses she asked the judge to direct her husband to pay for during the post-separation period.
Goodstein went into exhaustive detail of what he called the “extreme excess” of the lifestyle of the couple, who were married in 2001.
It included rentals of summer homes in the Hamptons for $100,000 each summer before the Southampton home was purchased; a $500,000 NetJets contract, plus use of jets for between $2,500 and $5,000 an hour; $3,000-a-night hotel rooms and $40,000 vacations; memberships at five country clubs; $100,000 monthly clothing bills and a trip to Buckingham Palace for Prince Charles’ 60th birthday party.
The ruling noted a number of luxury cars the couple acquired for cash, including a 2012 Ferrari, a 2012 Porsche Targa, a 2012 Range Rover and a 2011 Cadillac Escalade. Goodstein’s ruling specifically directed Anthony Westreich to inform his wife and her counsel of any offers he receives for the Ferrari and not to sell the vehicle without their consent for less than $279,000.
As Anthony Westreich conceded during the proceedings, he and his wife “spent too freely and lived too well.”
Westreich said his real estate ventures at Monday Properties, which were largely financed though a loan from his father’s trust, the Stanley I. Westreich Revocable Trust, began to falter with the recession of the late 2000s. At one time, the business’ holdings included 386 Park Ave. and the Coast Guard Building in Manhattan.
He said he and his wife mainly paid for the lifestyle by money generated from sales of their assets and not recurring revenues produced by the properties. Dale Westreich said she has found it difficult to discern exactly how much her husband had made since they were married, leading to the need for forensic experts to review the couple’s finances.
Schlissel, Anthony Westreich’s attorney, declined to comment on an ongoing matter.
Cohen, Dale Westreich’s attorney, said that even with the reduction in the direct spousal payment, a “cheer went up” at her firm when Goodstein’s ruling arrived.
“We believe that this is one of the largest, if not the largest, pendente lite awards that we have seen,” Cohen said in an interview. “Our client’s award amounts to more than $2 million a year between direct temporary maintenance and the other payments that the husband has to make to maintain and preserve the pre-separation lifestyle in their various homes.”
Cohen said that while much of Goodstein’s ruling concerned the Westreich’s wealth, she did not think it was disapproving of their spending habits.
“Ordinary mortals are somewhat in awe of the magnitude of the lifestyle that is lived by the very, very wealthy. I think the judge is respectful of it and sensitive to it and I think the judge attempted to continue the lifestyle,” Cohen said.