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High asset divorce does not always mean equal property division

Maryland has its share of high-end divorces that require dividing property and allocating assets on a large-scale basis. Sometimes, the high asset divorce is a matter of public scrutiny due to intensive press coverage. Many such breakups, however, go essentially unreported due to the low-key nature of the wealth and personalities involved.

One higher-key individual, Richard Stephenson, is the CEO and founder of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. He recently announced giving $5 million to help the Virgin Islands hurricane relief effort. That generous gesture belies the fact that Stephenson recently completed a bitter and protracted divorce settlement after an eight-year court battle.

In fact, his spouse, Alicia Stephenson, had demanded $5 million per year to maintain her life in the style to which she had become accustomed during many years of marriage. Despite having even contributed to helping her husband build up the business, a family law judge awarded her $27,500 per month, a far cry from the amount she demanded. The judge noted that, although Alicia had some admirable qualities on her side of the ledger, she had simply not responded to opportunities to go back to school and develop her own independent career.

The court also awarded her a lump sum of $6.5 million, a Porsche, jewelry, two motorcycles and a 401(k) fund. A pre-trial contract between them was the determinative factor in keeping the wife's recovery from becoming noticeably lucrative. Even in a high asset divorce case, the presence of a prenuptial will go a long way in protecting the higher wage earner from suffering a substantial breakup of his/her holdings. The principles that the courts use in deciding the details of such divorces are generally the same in Maryland and all other states.

Source: chicagotribune.com, "His acrimonious divorce finally over, Richard Stephenson donates $5 million to hurricane relief," Kim Janssen, Oct. 11, 2017

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