Gabriel Villa and Cristina Carta Villa were married for 20 years. Or were they? Turns out this husband secretly divorced his wife just months after they were married.
Husband Secretly Divorced Wife
Gabriel Villa, 90, and Cristina Carta Villa, 59, were married for 20 years, had a son together, and two homes – one in New York, and one in France. It seems the two were living in perfect marital bliss, until it was discovered that they weren’t married at all. Turns out, just months after getting married, Gabriel secretly divorced Cristina in an attempt to protect his assets.
But now Cristina is suing Gabriel in an attempt to nullify the divorce she didn’t know about as well as keep him from selling an apartment the two have shared for the past years.
The Love Story
The two met at a mutual friends house where, according to Cristina, “He was absolutely charming, and despite our age difference, it was love at first sight.” They were wed in New York in 1994. She was working as a teacher of Italian literature at Boston College, but gave up her job to be with the lawyer a travel agent.
Just four months after the two tied the knot, Gabriel secretly arranged for a divorce in the Dominican Republic. But never told Cristina, who never would have consented to the Dominican divorce. Additionally, the divorce was never registered in New York.
“It’s a fraud,” she told The New York Post.
In the 22 years since their married, the two bought a one-bedroom condo on West 55th Street and had a son, Lorenzo. Additionally, the couple divided their time among Manhattan, Massachusetts, and France. All the while, Cristina thought she was legally married to Gabriel.
“It was and somehow it’s still a great love,” Cristina says. “Gabriel is a very charismatic man, strong, intelligent and very charming. I think we could say I was a loving and caring wife and mother.”
She even stuck with him through the worst of times. According to Cristina, when Gabriel was in the hospital, “I was always at his side.” He even made her his legal health-care proxy and gave her power of attorney.
Allegedly, according to the court papers that Cristina has filed in court, Gabriel was telling Dominican authorities another story, saying that life with Cristina was “unbearable.”
Thought the two did not have residency in the Dominican Republic, Gabriel applied for the legal dissolution there. Allegedly, according to Cristina’s claims, he also hired lawyers to represent each spouse and cited “incompatibility of temperaments” as the reason for the split.
Cristina Finds Out
Cristina only became aware of her divorce last November, when a tax bill arrived for the couple’s Manhattan home and her name wasn’t on it. Curious about the situation, she hired a lawyer to investigate. The lawyer uncovered the fact that Gabriel had attempted to remove her name from the deed, using the Dominican Republic divorce as proof she was not an owner.
According to court papers, Cristina “has no recollection of [giving] any authorization to anyone to proceed with a divorce, or even thinking about divorce from the man she had just recently married.” If legal authority had been given, she was either “surreptitiously impaired, drugged or misled” into giving it.
“I realize now that during all these years of joy and happiness, and of difficult moments we shared together, my husband lied to me and had the Dominican divorce on the back of his mind. It’s what is hurting me the most,” she says.
Cristina is arguing that the divorce is not even legal in the Dominican Republic, because neither spouse appeared in the court. Additionally, the divorce was not published in a newspaper, as required under Dominican law.
She believes that Gabriel is “using an illegal and fraudulent divorce . . .” to rob her of money.
Marital Property Division
As is shown by this wild case, marital property division can be a very difficult part of a marriage. While this story is a rare one, filled with deceit, it proves just how important it is to be fully aware of your financial picture, even if your spouse is the one that “takes care of the finances.” This is why divorce can be so devastating – you have to pick up the pieces of a financial disaster. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Finances After Divorce
There are some simple steps you can take to get back on solid financial footing following a divorce. The best way to do this is to make some changes during the divorce that will set you up to more forward once the divorce is finalized.
Build a Team
Mike Lynch, vice president of strategic markets at Hartford Funds, says, “Don’t go it alone. Build a team today – a qualified team of legal, tax and investment professionals. Maybe it’s your current investment professional, or you may seek a new one that understands your situation better.”
Try to Be Civil with Your Ex
It’s important that you remain civil when it comes to your ex. This can be crucial when it comes to working out aspects of a divorce, including marital property division, alimony, and child custody and visitation. This might mean working with a counselor or relationship therapist that can advise the both of you on how to find a common ground, or at least a civil way of communicating.
Consider Selling All Shared Property
While it might feel smart to hold onto property – such as a primary home or vacation home – and just decide who will take over ownership, this can become a major sticking point between couples. Who will take care of maintenance, who will take the utility bills? It’s often advised that a couple sells their home and split the proceeds.
Work with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst
A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst can act as an advisor to a divorce lawyer or as a mediator for both parties. “Decisions made during divorce are long-lasting and it’s important to stay focused and recognize the significance of the proceedings,” says Allison Alexander, a CDFA, CPA and financial analyst at Savant Capital Management. “As painful as it is, there is no advantage to rushing the process and making errors in judgment.”
Create a Budget
According to certified divorce financial analyst Eva Sachs, the first step toward finding your own financial independence is to balance your income with your expenses. Figure out how much money is coming in (via work, alimony, and/or child support) and then see how much is going out and being spent on living expenses.
Update Your Beneficiaries
Emily McBurney, attorney and qualified domestic relations orders (QDRO) expert, says the top of your to-do list should include updating the beneficiary that is listed on your life insurance and retirement accounts. It makes sense that during your marriage your spouse was listed as your beneficiary, but now that might not make sense. Until you remove he or her name they will remain on there.
Update Your Will
Since you’re already updating your beneficiary designations, don’t forget to revise your will, according to certified divorce financial analyst Donna Cheswick.
Plan for Emergencies
In a marriage, you rely on your spouse when you lose your job, face a medical emergency, or run into an unplanned home expense. But if something happens now, after your marriage, you’re going to need to go it alone. In order to protect yourself, Sachs advises you create an emergency fund. You should add to this fund whenever you are able to. Additionally, doing this also adds to your emotional well-being. There’s a satisfaction in knowing that you can stand on your own two feet if anything goes wrong.
“An emergency fund should equal three to six months of your living expenses,” she says. “If you can swing it, I recommend six months because you’re now single and need an even bigger cushion if you are not able to work or an emergency occurs.”
It’s important that you remember tax season during your divorce, as it will have repercussions when it comes to alimony and child support payments. Remember that there will be taxes on assets that are divided, and though it might seem a fair settlement, come tax season it might not be.
Create Your “Single” Budget
You’re entering a new life as a “single” person, so you’re going to need to budget for that life. “Be as specific as you can and make the necessary adjustments to your budget as soon as possible,” says John Garvey, senior vice president of wealth management at UBS. “Next, plan for your future as a single person. If fewer assets are available to you, you may need to reprioritize your spending. As an example, college savings plans may need to be revisited to account for decreased income flows.”
Working with a Divorce Attorney
If you are facing a divorce, you should work with a divorce attorney that will take a vested interest in your specific situation and advise you on what you might face in a divorce regarding property division, child support and custody, and alimony. They will be able to advise you on your options. A divorce attorney will provide support and guidance as you work towards ending your marriage.
For advice on divorce, you need the expert law firm of Law Offices of Korol and Velen, Certified Family Law Specialists.