NEW YORK, USA — In what is being described in legal circles here as a landmark ruling, a Queens Supreme Court Justice has denied the plaintiff in a divorce case any part of her husband's assets, after Jamaican-born attorney David B Callender successfully argued that she was not entitled to any.
The plaintiff, Claudette Medley, also a Jamaican national, allegedly previously refused a $300,000 offer from the defendant.
The ruling in the case Medley v Medley, has stirred a vigorous debate in the legal profession since under New York divorce laws it is rare for spouses to walk away empty-handed.
According to court records, the plaintiff — who migrated from Jamaica in 1988 on a temporary visa with a work permit — and the defendant were married for ten years. The marriage took place in 1997 shortly after the plaintiff was informed by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service that her visa had expired.
Court records also indicate that the parties signed a non-notarised agreement to say neither of them would seek any part of each other's assets if the marriage failed. The defendant kept his part of the agreement, but the plaintiff sought an equitable distribution of the assets.
In arriving at the ruling, the court relied on the fact that both parties conducted separate businesses, apparently in keeping with the agreement. They filed separate income tax returns and maintained separate bank accounts during the marriage, which produced no children.
Evidence shown in court revealed that in the ten years of marriage the parties lived together for just over two years and only once during the marriage did they engage in any investment together.
In handing down her judgment Judge Jackman-Brown described the relationship as "a sparse emotional life with no financial partnership". She noted that the parties conducted themselves in a manner "consistent with the terms of the agreement signed in 1997 and in a manner inconsistent with the typical economic partnership". She found that the document the parties signed did not meet the requirements of a pre-nuptial agreement since it was not notarised.
Jackman-Brown also denied the plaintiff's claims for financial support during the marriage, saying that while the defendant's income was greater than hers, she was "able to meet her annual obligations without the assistance of the defendant".
Commenting on the case, Neil Cahn of Long Island-based Neil Cahn PLLC described the ruling as notable, but said he personally didn't think it was landmark.