Beliefnet
Ronald Perelman is not a nice man. But over the past three years, his ex-wife Patricia Duff has achieved the remarkable: she has transformed Perelman into the guy you root for. Duff, a prominent Democratic fund-raiser, went through 20 lawyers in the couple's protracted custody fight, which was finally resolved on December 7. Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Franklin Weissberg ordered Perelman, the chairman of Revlon and the richest man in New York, to pay $153,900 a year in child support--not the $1.3 million that Duff had asked for. Judge Weissberg's 22-page decision lacerated Duff's contentions with words like "absurd," "rubbish," and "not a shred of evidence in the record to support these conclusions." Here's an excerpt of the decision:

Plaintiff husband ("father") and defendant wife ("mother") were married January 20, 1995 and separated approximately eighteen months later. They were divorced on September 10, 1998. They have one child of the marriage, a daughter Caleigh born on December 13, 1994. The father has five other children from two previous marriages, four adults and a daughter named Samantha who is now eight years old. The wife has no other children from her three prior marriages. At the present time, Caleigh [spends]...[a]pproximately 60% of her time...with her mother and 40% with her father....

The issue to be decided herein is the appropriate amount of child support to be paid to the mother by the father Caleigh and the amount properly allocable to the mother.

The Pre-Nuptial Agreement

On December 22, 1994, nine days after the birth of their daughter, the father and mother entered into a pre-nuptial agreement.... Pursuant to that agreement, the father pays the mother $94,312 a month for maintenance, or $1,131,744 a year.... [T]he father also purchased for the mother two adjoining properties in Southport, Connecticut at a total cost, including renovations, furnishings and decorations, of $7.88 million. One property, called "Rock Meadow," consists of 20 acres, a 10,000 square foot main house, a separate guest house, a swimming pool, pond, tennis court and two greenhouses. The other property, called "Deer Meadow," consists of 23 acres, a 5,000 square foot house and a barn....

In addition to the payments pursuant to the pre-nuptial agreement, the father gave the mother substantial assets during their relationship. Between 1993 and 1996 the father made cash transfers to the mother in excess of $8 million, bought her jewelry worth almost $5 million and gave her art and rare books having a value in excess of $300,000, all of which she retained....

The Net Worth and Income of the Parties

At all relevant times, the father's net worth varied between $5 and $9 billion....

In her post-trial memorandum, the mother contends that her net worth is approximately $24 million. That is clearly understated. [It] does not include the $5 million received by the mother pursuant to the pre-nuptial agreement as set forth above. It also does not include jewelry, art, antiques and rare books totaling $7.5 million.... At trial the mother contended that her jewelry collection is worth between $1.7 and $2.2 million, relying upon a one-page letter from Sothebys dated September 7, 1999.... However, that letter only referred to part of her jewelry collection. An appraisal of her entire jewelry collection made in May, 1996 for insurance purposes valued it at $4,339,520.... She also testified that the $3 million figure for art, antiques and rare books must be a "typo."... The record establishes that the mother's net work is at least $30 million....

Contentions of the Parties

The mother contends that Caleigh is entitled as a matter of law to enjoy a lifestyle that approximates her father's lifestyle when she is with her mother. She also contends that if the huge disparity between her parent's lifestyle is not mitigated, Caleigh will suffer severe and permanent emotional damage. She seeks in excess of $1.3 million per year for Caleigh's living and housing expenses, plus a lump sum payment of approximately $2 million.

The father contends that Caleigh's standard of living has not been diminished since the parties separated; that the mother is seeking enormous amounts of additional tax-free maintenance in the guise of child support; that most of what the mother seeks represents categories that are not child support and that the mother is impermissibly focusing on the father's lifestyle rather than Caleigh's standard of living. He contends that he is currently spending approximately $30,000 per month, or $360,000 per year, supporting Caleigh and that an appropriate child support award is $5,000 per month for miscellaneous living expenses; up to $7,000 per month for housing expenses; 100% of Caleigh's education, medical and extracurricular expenses; and up to $60,000 per year for the salary of nannies.

Unquestionably, Caleigh has enjoyed a privileged and luxurious standard of living since her birth. Unarguably, she is entitled to continue to do so. What must be determined are the elements of that standard of living, the costs thereof and the proper allocation between her multi-billionaire father and her multi-millionaire mother....

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