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Keeping Up with the Girardis

Some of you who are familiar with the world of reality television will instantly recognize the names Erika Girardi (a.k.a. “Erika Jayne”) and Tom Girardi from the Bravo television show “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” You will further, likely recall the endless legal woes surrounding Mr. and Mrs. Girardi, including a California divorce originally filed in November 2020, Tom Girardi’s conservatorship initiated by his brother, and a federal fraud lawsuit. For those of you who do not keep up with the Girardis, allow the next paragraph to serve as a quick summary.

Man and Woman meet. Man and Woman get married six months later. Man and Woman enjoy an unapologetically lavish lifestyle together and show off said lifestyle on a hit reality television show. Twenty-one years later, Woman finds out Man is cheating and Woman files for divorce from Man. While divorce is pending, absolute chaos ensues. Man and Woman are hit with several lawsuits. Man is then diagnosed with dementia and late onset Alzheimer’s, which compels Man’s brother to file for conservatorship over Man as well as Man’s estate. Two years after filing, divorce is still pending with no end in sight.

There are many things that can affect the momentum of divorce proceedings and the Girardi divorce is a perfect case study from which to draw examples. Though not at all an exhaustive list, here are three reasons why a Georgia divorce may take longer than others to reach its conclusion:

Reason 1: Discovery.

Discovery is a great litigation tool routinely used to find information and seek documentation supportive to that information. Depending on the breadth of information sought, the willingness of the receiving party to comply with a request for discovery and the need for supplemental and/or third-party discovery, the process can be a straightforward one or not. In the case of the Girardis, Erika Girardi made certain statements on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills where she alleged that she was largely kept in the dark as far as the multi-million-dollar marital estate. Further, it has been alleged that Tom Girardi misused funds on shopping trips, cosmetic surgery procedures and an oceanfront condo for his mistress. Taking a Georgia divorce with similar facts, it is likely that such a proceeding would involve a rigorous and lengthy discovery process to unpack all of the tightly wrapped financial information (and unequivocal evidence of adultery).

Reason 2: Conservatorship

As mentioned earlier, the Girardis are embroiled in other litigation, including Tom Girardi’s adult conservatorship. In Georgia, adult conservatorship is the process by which one individual seeks to assume the power to make decisions regarding the management of financial and legal matters of another due to the other’s insufficient capacity. Depending on the steps needed to establish the incapacity of another, such as a professional evaluation and a hearing on the issue of whether a conservator should be appointed, this legal process can operate to delay a companion divorce case.

Reason 3: Bankruptcy

In addition to the aforementioned litigation, there is a pending bankruptcy action surrounding Tom Girardi’s estimated $101 Million worth of debt. In order to satisfy this debt, an auction of Tom Girardi’s personal and real property was ordered, including the home used by the Girardis during their marriage. In a Georgia divorce, under the equitable division standard, all real, personal and other property must be disclosed and accounted for in order for the Court to make a proper disposition as to marital—and separate—assets. A bankruptcy action is likely to stay any divorce proceeding related to the division of property until the bankruptcy matter is resolved and an accurate schedule of assets can be made.

Divorce, in and of itself, can be a procedurally intricate process. It is more likely to be so if there are additional storm clouds that need to clear before the shining resolution can peek through. A firm complete with a knowledgeable team of professionals who value concierge-level service is sure to be a resource for litigants navigating a seemingly precarious situation. The Manely Firm is that resource, ready to guide individuals in crisis through the storm.

Kourtney Bernard-Rance