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Not Signing On The Dotted Line May Cost Sugar Exec Millions In Queens

A New York socialite with a penchant for horses and Real Housewives pals may have struck gold when she sought to have her divorce agreement rescinded and the judge realized that her ex-husband had never even signed it.

Instead of paying out $5M a year for 12 years, as ordered after the couple’s 2015 negotiations, Daniel Rosenblum, 70, will be bound by the terms of a 2013 agreement with with his ex-wife Sheila Rosenblum, 59. He is now on the hook for $11M up front, and will have to pay out an additional $50M over the next four years.

In an earlier dispute, the Manhattan Supreme Court had awarded damages in the amount of $5.5M to Sheila Rosenblum last November, apparently as an enforcement action over the currently-disputed agreement. In March, Mrs. Rosenblum sought help from British courts in collecting that debt from assets owned by Mr. Rosenblum in London.

In throwing out the 2015 contract, Justice Michael Katz of Manhattan Supreme Court found the agreement could not be enforced. Lacking a signature is one thing, but the records suggest that Mr. Rosenblum was failing to meet many of the terms the couple had agreed to.

“It would have taken five seconds for the parties and their attorneys to sign it,” Justice Katz noted in his ruling. Instead, the much more costly 2013 contract will control, and new litigation is certainly on the way as a result.

In fact, Daniel Rosenblum is already suing over the $50M provision, arguing through his lawyer, Larry Carlin, that not only can Mr. Rosenblum not afford to pay it, but that Sheila Rosenblum’s net worth makes the payments unnecessary and excessive.

According to media reports, Mrs. Rosenblum is the owner of two all-female horse racing syndicates. The first, Triumphant Trio, purchased the half-sibling of Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh for $840,000. The second, Lady Sheila Stable, features a $100,000 buy-in price and includes Real Housewives of New York City star Jill Zarin.

Sheila Rosenblum’s filly La Verdad won the top female sprinter crown and some $1.4M in prize money in 2015. Carlin puts Sheila Rosenblum’s net worth at $120M, and says that she is the owner of 27 thoroughbred horses.

The length of a marriage is a factor in how the court determines an ongoing financial relationship after a divorce, or even if such payments are appropriate. In the Rosenblum’s case, they’ve married each other twice, first in 1990, when Ms. Rosenblum was 31.

That marriage lasted four years, but the couple wasn’t quite finished yet. They remarried in 1996, and had a long and by many accounts successful marriage that lasted nearly two decades, finally splitting in 2014.

Daniel Rosenblum was the deputy chairman of the sugar division at the commodities trading firm ED&F Man, while his wife had been a model for the Ford company. They enjoyed an opulent lifestyle, including properties in Manhattan and the Hamptons and a duplex penthouse on Park Avenue described in sales materials as a “chateau in the sky… inspired by the luxuries of another era.” Comparisons were made to settings in F. Scott Fitzgerald stories.

The two were a well-known staple of New York’s high society, moving in circles that included celebrities from across the spectrum, and raising two children together. When the marriage finally began to break down, negotiations started in earnest.

Among other things, Ms. Rosenblum got the $30M Park Avenue penthouse, as well as a $90M payment that will be made at the time of Mr. Rosenblum’s death. To head off the front loaded agreement they reached in 2013, the couple came back to the table in 2015 to finalize the terms that have now been thrown out.

Instead of paying $61M in four years, with $11M due up front, Mr. Rosenblum agreed to pay $5M over a dozen years.

But what’s a judge (or an ex-spouse, for that matter) to do when a new round of negotiations takes place, a new agreement is filed, and then the party who won a better deal doesn’t follow through?

That appears to be the situation here, where Mr. Rosenblum not only failed to transfer cash or property in the amount of $5M-plus, but also failed to sign the agreement at all.

First, Mr. Rosenblum’s attorneys should never have allowed the document to be filed without ensuring that it was entirely complete. If Mr. Rosenblum believed there was some kind of strategic advantage to be had by not signing, such as improving his odds of calling for a new round of negotiations, his attorneys should have advised him better.

In a divorce in New York, one spouse’s signature is not necessarily required for the other to obtain a divorce, but if you want to fight for terms that work for you, then you have to be prepared to sign on the dotted line and then meet the letter – and even the spirit – of the agreement.

Failing this, your ex-spouse has every right to go back to court and insist on enforcement of the order you argued for. And that’s the catch for Mr. Rosenblum. Once the judge realized that it hadn’t been signed, and Mr. Rosenblum hadn’t met the terms of the agreement, then he felt empowered to throw the carefully negotiated contract out the window and revert to the previous, much more onerous, agreement.

Whatever your net worth, divorce is hard, complicated, and emotionally painful. Your instinct is to protect yourself, and in that state, you may take steps that make your future more difficult, not less. At Zelenitz, Shapiro & D’Agostino, we’ve helped our clients through divorces of all types, from amicable splits to combat divorces where neither party will budge an inch.

We can make sure that your rights are protected, that you are fully informed at all points, and that your actions are as prudent as possible. Call us today at 718-523-1111 and talk to an experienced Queens divorce lawyer for free.