Unique Legal Perspective Affecting Donald Sterling, Ms. V. Stiviano, and Rochelle Sterling

Mr. Sterling known to be the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers is accused of making racial comments in tapes allegedly created by his girlfriend. The octogenarian has a woman less than half his age named, V. Stiviano. Ms. Stiviano denies leaking the tapes however she reported taped Mr. Sterling making the remarks that are costing him severe back lash and a possible life time ban from the NBA Commission. 

Ms. Stiviano reportedly received millions in gifts including a home, luxury cars, and “living expense”. In California there is unique community property laws and Rochelle Sterling (Mr. Donald Sterling’s wife) is contending via civil suit against Ms. Stiviano that she is entitled to fifty percent of the gifts that Ms. Stiviano received from Sterling. The suit contends that whatever Sterling paid or gave to Ms. Stiviano, half of the value of the gifts “allegedly almost two million dollars” was community property or marital funds and Ms. Stiviano should return half of the money back to Ms. Sterling. Many people have weighed in on the controversy; the controversial remark; the actions taken by the NBA; but nobody has looked in to this unique aspect of the case. Donald Trump weighed in on FOX News that “Ms. Stiviano was the girlfriend from hell”. And clearly the case is in California. However, what if this occurred in New York? What can a wife recover from a mistress, if anything, under New York State Law? 

Bryan L. Salamone of Bryan L. Salamone & Associates, New York’s largest and most successful divorce and family law firm has weighed in on the situation. It appears not only is Ms. Stiviano the girlfriend from hell, but Mr. Sterling is no angel either. In any event, the unintended and clear victim under New York law would be Mr. Sterling’s wife. Within one to three years of the lavish gifts and payments to a mistress, a wife can file for divorce against the husband and claim “marital waste”. This would be a valid claim. In the event that Mr. Sterling was in New York, his wife could clearly sue for divorce and claim marital waste. She would then claim that the money that was spent on his mistress should come from his share of the assets. The fatal flaw in her argument would be ratification or consent to the gifts. Prevailing case law may prevent her from getting her any money from the mistress but only give her a small fighting chance against her husband if she knew about the expenses and failed to object. 

Clearly, the case against Ms. Stiviano is weak. There is no privety although there are damages to Ms. Sterling. Mr. Sterling is the one who is at fault. Ms. Sterling could only get money from Mr. Sterling is she commenced this with divorce. She would have to contend that the marital waste was something that was unknown to her and not condoned by her. In this case, the news is filled with pictures of Mr. Sterling and Ms. Stiviano court side and at events together. A divorce court would be hard pressed to believe that Ms. Stiviano (a woman in her thirties converting with a married man in his eighties) was not receiving some sort of gifts or appreciation. She specifically must have seen them together and known about it. In this case New York law would be less sympathetic. 

Even if New York law was to be sympathetic with respect to martial waste and was to fine that Mr. Sterling secretly and fraudulently conveyed money to his mistress without his wife’s knowledge, the marital waste should only be to the extent of half of the reported two million dollars. Thereafter Mr. Sterling could have a claim that his wife could be a “compulsive shopper” or an “over spender” and he could list five and ten thousand dollar hand bags, charitable donations and jewelry and other items that he did not consent to her buying for herself and or any payments she made to her family member or friends. 

Moreover, depending on the length of the marriage and the lifestyles, our firm would hire experts to show what contributions Mr. Sterling’s wife, Rochelle failed to make in the marriage and what those contributions could have cost or benefitted the couple. 

In the grand scheme of things, Mr. Sterling is clearly the bad guy but Ms. Stiviano is more than likely the girlfriend from hell. Nevertheless, the victim being Ms. Sterling as little or no recompense and or compensation that she can obtain from Ms. Stiviano. Only claims would be against her husband and that is only if she sought divorce now. Even in that case, her knowledge of his spending for his girlfriend would be a question. 

In almost all cases of adultery and or the destruction of the marriage bond the quicker the couple moves to the divorce, the better it is for the true intended or unintended victim. Here, at the first sight of an affair had Ms. Sterling dumped her cheating husband she would have been “all the better for it” according to Mr. Salamone. Bryan Salamone is a divorce and family law attorney and is the President of Bryan L. Salamone, P.C., a Melville based law firm that has handled thousands of matrimonial and is noted to handle celebrity cases and often comment on television and print news. Mr. Salamone personally conducts consults on a selected basis and accepts cases via the internet; in person and over the phone.

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