Answering A Few Questions with Matrimonial Attorney Mr. Isaiah Vallejo-Juste
There is so much going on in the world today, and divorce rates continue to spike. Not every situation is the same. From time-to-time, our team does provide investigations and security support to UHNW clients considering a divorce. Recently, I-OnAsia's Chief Operating Officer James Tunkey sat down with Isaiah Vallejo-Juste, an attorney who has represented some of New York City's most successful and affluent individuals. Isaiah is a partner at Rosenfeld & Vallejo-Juste, LLP
Isaiah often says he likes to "take the drama out of divorce". We sometimes say "divorce with intelligence".
Isaiah, thank you for spending some time with us today. Kim & Kanye are in the news. For an UHNW spouse who wants out of a high profile marriage, is there a checklist of things you need to think about?
James, thanks for hosting this conversation...Yes, first and foremost you want to be sure that you have competent counsel to represent you who has handled UHNW matters in the past. In handling such matters in the past, I can tell you that UHNW individuals likely have assets which are subject to particular laws when it comes to equitable distribution. Thus, you want to be represented by someone who has familiarity with those types of assets. Its beneficial to use an attorney who is familiar with the lifestyles led by UHNW individuals. Further, you want to consult with and hire an attorney who is going to protect your anonymity, fight for your rights, and with whom you feel confident. Your attorney will be guiding you through one of, if not the most, tumultuous events of your life and so you want to be sure you feel comfortable and can trust the person that you choose to represent you.
You also want to be sure that, if possible, you have some knowledge of your finances and have copies of at least some of your financial statements and documents. You should also have an accountant and financial advisor that you trust and, if you do not, your attorney can likely recommend a few to speak with.
Depending on your particular matter, what is most important for you may be different. For example, in the Kimye divorce, they may be very concerned about privacy, particularly with respect to their children and financial assets (Kanye’s tweets and tiktok videos notwithstanding).
Do you have any observations about how the Kim & Kanye divorce is playing out. Are you seeing things you think are being handled particularly well, either from a legal or from a reputation management standpoint?
The attorneys certainly have done a good job assuring that a level of confidentiality is being maintained in the divorce. However, Kanye is not doing himself any favors in his Tiktok videos and tweets if he is fighting for custody. I am sure a Court will not appreciate fighting about such issues in the public forum. Also, having a public relations person consult with you and help with reputation management can be important if you are a public figure.
I-OnAsia handles some matrimonial disputes involving international families, where there are global residences and corporate holdings, parents who call different countries home, and children in school in different places. In your experience as a legal advisor, what are the biggest challenges in these cases?
The biggest challenges in international matters is being sure you obtain an accurate picture of the parties’ financial assets. That is also where utilizing I-OnAsia can be very helpful, in tracing assets and being sure that you obtain an accurate picture of financial assets.
Custody matters can also be extremely complex if they involve international parents. I have represented individuals involved in international custody disputes and these are some of the most difficult matters to resolve. However, one should keep in mind that the Court will deem where the children have lived for the previous six months as being very important. Nevertheless, parental rights are considered fundamental human rights and are very much enforced in Court or otherwise.
The mental health of Kanye was discussed by Kim in the press early on. What’s been your experience about how mental health issues are considered in a divorce court setting? Does a concern about a spouse’s mental health put a divorce dispute on a unique track in the courts?
Mental health issues weigh heavily in custody matters. Where mental health issues are considered, there are a host of ways in which the Court can attempt to address these issues. This includes assigning an attorney to represent the children in these matters, possibly appointing a forensic psychologist to meet with the parties and the children, and also getting ACS involved to perform a Court Ordered Intervention, depending on the severity of the situation.
If you or your spouse has potential mental health issues, this is definitely something you want to be upfront with your attorney about ASAP.
What types of specialists should you have on any UHNW divorce case?
There are professionals who would be involved in the Court process and those involved in helping the parties in a personal capacity as well.
In the Court process, attorneys, forensic accountants, pension evaluators, tax accountants, financial investigators, and forensic analysts may all be involved.
In addition, the individual’s accountants, trust & estate attorneys, wealth managers, etc. will likely be involved in aiding the individual through the process as well.
Investigators too! Our team frequently gets asked to gather evidence of hidden assets. We’ve seen many cases where one spouse has lied, and siphoned money from community property and hidden it somewhere. If that happened in a business context, we might call that fraud and money laundering. But in my experience, divorce courts don’t see that as a crime. Do you have any advice for someone contemplating a divorce from their spouse who they suspect has been shifting assets?
While the activity itself can be perceived as criminal, divorce courts may not examine it from a criminal lens (although the Court can refer such matters to the proper authorities if it deems fit). If you suspect your spouse is shifting or hiding assets then it is important to gather as much financial data and account statements as you can and also copies of several years of tax returns. In addition to hiring counsel, it is important to have your counsel engage with a company like I-OnAsia to assist with discovering hidden assets as well. During the case, attorneys can also serve subpoenas, take depositions, and take other actions to help find assets as well.
We see a lot of cases where one spouse has fallen in love with an au pair or someone else who is in a company on a temporary employment visa.
My approach here would highly depend upon who I am representing in the matter and what are the goals of that party.
This type of situation certainly does happen. And in those situations, we need to be very careful in communications with the children, as they obviously know the au pair. You also want to be sure that the spouse is not giving large amounts of money to the au pair or paramour and, if he/she is, there is a process to have the Court take that into account when equitable distributing the assets.
Our team frequently gets asked to dig deep into social media direct messages and texting histories, using cellphone forensics. Our clients are looking for proof of a suspected bad behavior. Perhaps they are hoping for leverage. What type of evidence has been most useful, when is it best used, and are there limits to what can or should be done?
Text messages are useful, as are social media posts. Hidden families have been found utilizing social media in the past. Once this activity is found, it will likely be necessary to connect those activities to their financial implications if they are to make an economic difference in a divorce. They may also make a difference in custody issues. For example, as I stated above, Kanye’s posting online about custody matters may not be looked upon kindly by a Court and may affect the ultimate disposition of the custody portion of this divorce.
Thank you, Isaiah!
Its been a pleasure James.
About I-OnAsia: I-OnAsia is a global investigations and security consulting company. A primary focus are cross border cases that link to Asia.
About Rosenfeld & Vallejo-Juste, LLP: RVJ Law handles complex matrimonial and commercial litigation.