Occasionally we come across somewhat sensational divorce stories that nonetheless offer illustrative points for New York residents. For example, a man from Staten Island is suing his ex-wife who, according to him, filed for divorce in secret.

The case brings up issues that unfortunately characterize many contentious divorces: namely, misplaced trust and disputes over property division. Of course, it would help any spouse to know that a divorce is actually occurring and that property is being split. The ex-husband in this case claims he wasn’t privy to any of that information.

The man and woman reportedly met through a dating service and were married in 2004 on Valentine’s Day. The husband was working as a photographer at the time, but he let that business go to invest in his wife’s law firm and a dress business they shared. He says he also spent money on expensive vacations.

The couple reportedly bought a lakeside residence in Grasmere, and the husband claims that he contributed part of his family inheritance — $100,000 — to the purchase. He also says that his name was never included on the title.

His lawsuit claims that his ex-wife secretly drew up a postnuptial agreement that he says he might have signed, not knowing what the document really was.

In 2007, the woman filed for a divorce, which was completed two years later. The man never showed up to court, however, and a judge approved the split. According to the man’s lawsuit, his ex-wife, who is now remarried, took the house and other assets, including stocks and savings. Meanwhile, the man lives on a disability pension.

The outcome of the man’s lawsuit remains to be seen, but the case does underscore the benefits of staying hands-on in a married couple’s finances. A prenuptial agreement is another way of protecting each party’s interests in the event of divorce. In any case, people going through a messy marital split may want to speak with an attorney to establish an effective strategy.

Source: New York Post, “Staten Island man claims ex-wife secretly divorced him,” Kathianne Boniello, Feb. 16, 2014