Most wealthy people use a prenuptial agreement to protect their assets in the event of a divorce, but one New York man skipped a prenup and went straight to the divorce papers — all without his wife ever knowing.
According to the New York Post, Cristina Carta Villa, 59, instantly fell in love with Gabriel Villa, 90, after meeting him at a friend’s house in 1994.
Despite their age difference, Cristina said “it was love at first sight.” The couple spent the last two decades together while Gabriel showered his wife with lavish gifts and trips around the world.
The problem? They were only married for a short few months immediately after they tied the knot.
Gabriel decided to hedge his bets after the marriage and arranged for a divorce in the Dominican Republic. Cristina claims that she never even knew about the divorce, let alone consented to it.
When a tax bill arrived to the couple’s Manhattan home in November, Cristina noticed that her name wasn’t on it. She hired a lawyer to investigate the matter, only to find out that Gabriel had removed her name from the deed using leverage he obtained in the Dominican Republic over 20 years ago.
The U.S. has a divorce rate of 3.4 per 1,000 people, but divorce is typically mutual, and Cristina spent two decades in a relationship with someone who was technically her ex-husband.
Despite the bizarre nature of this divorce, it actually does have some precedent. The New York Post also reported on a similar case in 2014 in which a female divorce lawyer created a “post-nup” behind her then-husband’s back.
Staten Island resident Anne-Louise Depalo secretly filed for a post-nuptial agreement three years after marrying James Ruggiero. The man claims his ex-wife used her legal savvy to trick him into signing the post-nup, which he believed to be a tax form.
As for the Villas, Cristina doesn’t even believe she got swindled into signing a fake form that consented to the divorce.
In fact, she maintains that she was either “surreptitiously impaired, drugged, or misled” into signing the divorce papers that were filed by her husband in the Dominican Republic.
“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,” Cristina Villa said.
Cristina is suing her current/former husband to regain the assets she would lose if the divorce is upheld by U.S. courts. Gabriel Villa has yet to comment on the matter.