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Dermatologist Nicholas V. Perricone’s new anti-wrinkle cream doesn’t come cheap. It retails at Neiman Marcus or on the Web for $570 per 2-ounce bottle. But even at that price, the Connecticut resident is going to have to push a lot of product to pay off the mounting legal fees in his divorce case. Already New Haven Superior Court Judge James G. Kenefick Jr. has ordered the multimillionaire skin doctor to pay his wife’s lawyers $450,000 within 30 days, predicting the legal fees and costs in the 9-month-old divorce battle would soon top $1 million. Elaine S. Amendola, of Fairfield’s Amendola & Amendola, had submitted bills of $352,000, for representing defendant Madeleine Perricone. In his March 15 decision, Kenefick noted that more work remained to be done, and said it would be unfair to ask “a small mother-daughter firm from Fairfield” to fund the litigation until it concludes. In the fee hearing, New Haven, Conn., divorce lawyer Jean L. Welty argued on Nicholas Perricone’s behalf that Amendola’s fees were “ludicrous.” Welty questioned the need for Amendola and two other lawyers from her firm to be in court at a combined rate of $1,100 per hour. Her wealthy client, Welty added, is “not just a pinata that you just, you know, hit with a stick and money falls out.” Amendola was speechless at first. She said this was the first time in 41 years of practice that her firm’s work ethic had been challenged. The case was so time-consuming it forced her to lose existing clients, she said, and she has been unable to pay her firm’s associate, Lisa M. Donini, “a cent” for her work in the divorce dispute. Kenefick did his best to level a playing field in which the doctor commanded control, he said. “This hearing has been an all-out attack on Mrs. Perricone by Dr. Perricone; [a] highly contentious and broad-ranging litigation, sparing no expense.” SECRET ORDERS The case started as secretly as a coup d’etat. On Sept. 8, 2003, Kenefick was persuaded by Nicholas Perricone’s lawyers — without any prior warning to Mrs. Perricone — to sign orders granting the doctor sole custody of their child and sole occupancy of their $750,000 Guilford, Conn., house, and forcing his wife to submit to a psychological evaluation. Kenneth B. Rubin, of New Haven’s Rubin & Eldrich, was Nicholas Perricone’s lawyer at that time. He sought orders prohibiting Mrs. Perricone from publicly criticizing her husband or in any way “restraining” the doctor or the child, or appearing at the Meriden, Conn., industrial park where Perricone’s “cosmeceuticals” are created. In an affidavit, Nicholas Perricone predicted that, once the divorce papers are served on his wife, “She will become enraged and I cannot predict the consequences for me, and more importantly, my” child. If Nicholas Perricone’s tactic of launching his divorce campaign with one-sided, ex parte orders was meant to simplify matters, it didn’t. In the consternation that ensued, a changing cast of counsel represented both parties. Madeleine Perricone settled on Amendola, who worked with guardian ad litem Helen D. Murphy, of New Haven’s Murphy, Murphy & Nugent, to work out a custody arrangement where the mother and child could remain in the marital home, with the aid of a nanny and a bodyguard. According to family lawyer Richard G. Kent, author of “Fighting For Your Children — A Father’s Guide to Custody,” it’s becoming more common for divorces to start with ex parte orders, which legally bind one party without any warning, notice or hearing. Kent, who last month joined the New Canaan, Conn., firm now known as Marvin, Ferro, Barndollar & Kent, is not connected to the Perricone case. While the element of surprise may be justified in freezing accounts, or preserving business assets, Kent said he believes that taking a child away from a parent without a prior hearing is probably unconstitutional. In the two weeks that typically pass before the excluded parent gets a court hearing, the child could be traumatized, he said. “They’re asking, ‘Where’s Mommy,’ or ‘Where’s Daddy.’” Kent said he’s spoken to lawmakers about changing C.G.S. � 46b-15 to do away with ex-parte pre-litigation orders giving one parent sole custody. “It’s one of my pet peeves,” he said. APPEALING FEE? The 30-day limit for obeying Kenefick’s order to pay Amendola came and went April 15, and Amendola has moved to find Perricone in contempt. Stamford lawyer Anthony A. Piazza, Nicholas Perricone’s lead Connecticut lawyer, argued in court papers that the doctor might appeal the judge’s “grossly excessive” fee order. Piazza cited the 2004 Appellate Court case of Grimm v. Grimm as evidence “that the Appellate Court can be aggressive in seeing that attorneys’ fee awards are properly justified.” To come up with the $450,000, the doctor may have to sell securities, Piazza argued, and forcing him to do so would be “in effect a distribution of assets before trial.” Nicholas Perricone’s assets are hard to fathom. In his financial affidavit, he lists his 97 percent interest in Nicholas V. Perricone Cosmeceuticals Ltd., which has 42 employees, as “undetermined.” His gross monthly distributions of company profits are $1.49 million, on which he pays federal taxes of $1.14 million and state taxes of $101,758, leaving him little more than $250,000 per month from profits. He claimed he nets roughly $35,400 of his $61,250 monthly income. He also earns monthly royalties of $283,900 from his bestselling books, “The Wrinkle Cure” and “The Perricone Prescription.” Not counting the business, Nicholas Perricone lists “total assets” of $11,897,825. Establishing the value of the business is a major pending issue. But according to The Wall Street Journal, it had sales of $11.9 million in 2001 and $24.4 million in 2002, with projected sales of $52 million in 2003. The son of a bricklayer, Perricone took his Meriden dermatology practice to new levels in the late 1990s with a combination of patents, hot-selling books and TV marketing. In 2001, his first TV special, “The Wrinkle Cure,” was featured during a PBS membership drive. Viewers who pledged could get a book, a tape, or a bottle of anti-wrinkle cream. The show raised over $4 million.

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