Billionaire Millennium Management Chairman Israel Englander and his wife Caryl were married for 40 years and had three children, before their extremely bitter and highly publicized divorce made headlines starting in 2016 and 2017.
Extreme Pressure and Intimidation
Caryl Englander and her new partner, art dealer Dominique Levy, alleged in a lawsuit that Israel Englander used his power and wealth, estimated at $11.5 billion, to engage in a years-long campaign of pressure and coercion to intimidate her. They alleged that he used teams of private investigators to track their every move – even when traveling overseas – and inflicted damage on Levy's art business and reputation, costing her hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Serious accusations of tax fraud and child abuse were leveled and investigated by authorities – and Carly claimed that she became desperate and traumatized over time. In her desperation, she agreed to sign a post-nuptial agreement that she subsequently realized deprived her of at least $1 billion. She signed that agreement in late 2020, and now she and Levy are again in court – asking a judge to set aside that agreement.
New York is an Equitable Distribution State
Divorce can often be contentious, and when divorcing couples go to court, their accumulated assets can be at the center of their legal debate. That’s particularly true for those high-net-worth couples who seek a divorce in New York, which is an equitable distribution state. That means that under New York law, the court will attempt to distribute marital assets between spouses in a fair and equitable way. However, it is possible to wind up with much less than you may have been entitled to if you ignore the advice of a divorce attorney who has your best interest in mind. You can also incur substantial losses of potential assets and wealth if you sign a binding legal document that relinquishes those assets to the person you are divorcing.
Two Simply but Crucial Rules
It cannot be overstated or emphasized enough that these are two potentially catastrophic mistakes to avoid if you are going through a divorce. The takeaway is clear and simple:
- Enter into an ironclad prenuptial agreement drawn up by an experienced and qualified attorney. That can preempt much of the disagreement over dividing up assets in the event of a divorce, which ultimately protects both spouses.
- Never, under any circumstances, sign legal documents (or any documents you do not fully understand) without first having your attorney carefully review them. The cost of that review will often be a tiny fraction of what it saves you regarding time, headaches, and finances.
Unfortunately, people often make critical mistakes by not heeding this advice – particularly when distressed and fatigued by a bitter, drawn-out divorce. But later, they typically regret doing so, as is now the case with Caryl Englander.
Lessons Learned the Hard Way
The example of the divorce between Israel Englander and his wife, Caryl, serves as a classic cautionary tale. Had Caryl Englander simply followed those two wise guidelines, she may not have found herself in the dire situation that she’s in today. But she surrendered extraordinarily valuable assets and accumulated wealth by signing a post-nuptial divorce agreement against the advice of her legal counsel.
Now she is fighting a costly and stressful uphill battle to persuade a New York state court judge to set aside that agreement, and give her a chance to start over in the ongoing saga of her long, drawn-out divorce.