Settlement isn’t always possible, as shown through Christina Estrada’s divorce

For years, Christina Estrada’s life read like a fairytale; former international supermodel fell in love with a billionaire Saudi Arabian sheikh, raising a daughter and sharing a mansion in the British countryside with an unlimited monthly budget to spend on whatever their hearts desired. She is quoted describing her married life as “magical.” Unfortunately, just as with most fairytales, the magic came to an end and reality set in when the sheikh obtained a divorce in 2014 in Saudi Arabia, under Islamic law, without Christina’s knowledge. And that was AFTER he had already married a 25-year-old Lebanese model, without Christina’s knowledge…and obviously while he was still married to her.

Fortunately for Christina, the news isn’t all bad as she has just been awarded what has been reported to be largest “needs award” ever made by an English Court; a whopping $69 million. Although, Christina may not be totally satisfied with this amount, as she had requested almost $254 million to cover her needs after divorce, arguing that this was the amount necessary to continue living the life she had become accustomed to. She estimated her ex-husband’s net worth at $8 billion. In court, Christina testified on cross examination to her needs which included almost $52,000 per year for fur coats, $141,000 per year for gowns, $27,000 per year for shoes, $78 million for a home in London, $5.7 million for a countryside home, and $641,000 for 5 cars (in London and the U.S.) Prior to this trial, the sheikh offered Christina a settlement of almost $20 million, which she rejected.

While Christina’s case is obviously an extreme outlier and would likely have had a different outcome under the laws of California, it serves as a good demonstration as to why certain divorce cases will simply be impossible to settle (or at least certain issues in a case.) While the attorneys at Bickford Blado & Botros seek to resolve conflict as quickly as possible and strive avoid court intervention wherever feasible, it is not realistic to expect that every couple will be able to reach a settlement on all issues of their divorce. The needs of each client and each case vary widely.

As we can see from Christina’s case, she requested $254 million in her divorce, estimating the sheikh’s net worth at $8 billion, and he offered to settle the case for about $20 million, claiming his net worth to be a mere $147.4 million. Surely Christina truly believes that she needs $254 million to survive in her post-divorce life, while her ex-husband felt that $20 million was a more-than-generous offer, but, with a more that $200 million disparity between the parties’ positions it is easy to see why the couple’s case had to make its way in front of a judge. Although Christina was not awarded the entire amount she requested, she did receive much more than the sheikh had originally offered.

If you are considering or in the process of a divorce and aspire to reach a settlement, it is important that you understand your rights, know the facts of your case, and understand what you are entitled to under California law. In settlement negotiations, even in the most “friendly” of divorces, it is important to be represented by a competent and qualified family law attorney for a number of reasons, especially in order to avoid what we in the legal field often refer to as “buyer’s remorse” after a divorce settlement is finalized and one spouse later realizes that he or she was entitled to much more than they agreed to.  To set aside a marital settlement agreement after-the-fact is not possible in many cases and will likely be much more difficult, costly, and time-consuming than getting things right the first time around.

Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) in San Diego County who is also a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.

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