MISSING LICENSE FORCES BRIDE INTO PALIMONY SUIT.
Makeup artist to the stars Judith Boteach thought she had found true love when it took four people to carry all of the flowers and jewelry lavished on her the day multimillionaire Yoav Botach proposed marriage.
Boteach said she learned a month after their Orthodox Jewish wedding ceremony that her groom hadn't obtained a California marriage license, but she believed in their future together.
``I loved him,'' said Boteach. ``I trusted him and he kept telling me (the wedding license) wasn't necessary.''
But their relationship ended unhappily, with Boteach kicked out of the couple's Beverlywood home in her nightgown. And she is now embroiled in a court battle for half of Botach's fortune - millions of dollars she claims he promised her should the couple ever split.
``This is the largest palimony case in American history,'' said Robert W. Hirsh, Boteach's attorney, who explained that his client cannot fight for alimony since she and Botach were never legally married.
According to court records, Botach co-owns 144 commercial and other properties in Los Angeles, as well as Botach Tactical, a nationwide distributor of police and military equipment. But Boteach is seeking access to financial documents to determine the defendant's assets.
``We would not be surprised if his net worth is $700 million,'' Hirsh said.
But Botach's lawyer, Richard G. Sherman, argues in court documents that because his client is a ``very wealthy man'' he insisted that Boteach sign a prenuptial agreement before the wedding to protect his assets. And, Botach maintains, he never promised Boteach anything if they separated.
Sherman also says that it was made clear to Boteach that the couple's 1997 ceremony did not constitute a legal marriage because they did not obtain blood tests or a marriage license.
``Judy had been married twice before and was well aware of the requirements of California law in that regard,'' Sherman wrote. ``Prior to the wedding ceremony, Yoav had a private conversation with the rabbi ... and Judy.
``In that conversation, Yoav announced that he wanted to make it clear that their 'marriage' was not legal in California and that they were going to get 'married' in a religious ceremony only. Judy consented and the religious ceremony then took place.
``After the religious ceremony, Yoav and Judy resided together until approximately August 2002 when they separated.''
Hirsh - a Beverly Hills attorney whose wife's family was helped by Boteach's family upon coming to the U.S. from Israel more than 25 years ago - said he filed the suit to help Boteach and other women.
``Mrs. Boteach was the woman behind the man,'' Hirsh said of his 52-year-old client. ``For almost a five-year period, Mrs. Boteach assisted ... in making a fortune in real estate and, at the same time, she ran the home. She cooked, cleaned, entertained world leaders and other dignitaries.''
The palimony case is the latest in a string of such suits filed since the term was coined in 1977 after actor Lee Marvin's companion, Michelle Triola, won a landmark lawsuit. She argued that based on specific promises, a cohabitant can have property rights to the assets of another cohabitant.
One of the largest palimony awards was granted in 1994, when an Orange County jury ordered Mag-Lite flashlight mogul Anthony Maglica to pay $84 million to Claire Maglica. The two never married but had lived together for more than 20 years and she had served as executive vice president of the Ontario-based company.
Boteach's story begins as one of 10 children born to a paint manufacturer and housewife in Casablanca, Morocco, who moved to Los Angeles in 1967 to escape religious persecution.
She attended Santa Monica Community College and beauty school. When she was 17 - with the help of her first husband and her sister and brother-in-law - she opened a Beverly Hills salon that grew to nearly three dozen employees and catered to stars including Cher and Tina Turner, according to Boteach and court records.
Over the next 20 years, Boteach acquired several other businesses, including two kosher tortilla firms and a cosmetics and perfume company that sold items through television infomercials in the United States and France.
Meanwhile, Botach and his brother immigrated from Iran and opened a pawn shop, according to court documents. In 1973, they began buying, selling and operating commercial properties, forming Botach Management in 1989.
While their families had long known each other, Boteach said it wasn't until the mid-1990s that she met her future husband when he began attending her synagogue.
They hit it off and Botach proposed, Hirsh said, but when he asked her to sign a prenuptial agreement, she refused and instead traveled to Australia to visit her sister.
The two eventually reconciled and Hirsh said Botach relented on his request for a prenuptial agreement. The two set a wedding date, and Hirsh said Botach informed his bride that he had taken care of all the arrangements.
An Orthodox Jewish ceremony was held Dec. 25, 1997, Hirsh said.
``She showed up to get married, thinking everything was proper,'' Hirsh said. ``Then a month later, the subject of a license came up and he told her, 'We don't need a license. We have an agreement and there is no license' - that she would get half if they ever separated.''
Boteach said she found out they didn't have a marriage license when she was attempting to change her name on her passport.
In court documents, Boteach says she worked at Botach Management as the real estate market ``rocketed up,'' although she received no compensation. And she alleges that Botach ``severely beat'' her on several occasions after she refused to sign a post-nuptial agreement.
Boteach said she never reported the alleged abuse to the police because she was ``ashamed, scared and didn't know what to do.''
Boteach filed for divorce, asking a judge to recognize that the couple had a civil marriage.
But Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu found that the couple was not legally married and could not be granted a divorce. Hirsh said the judge suggested Boteach pursue a palimony suit.
In her palimony case, Boteach says the couple cohabitated from the wedding ceremony until August 2002, when she was kicked out of their Beverlywood home in her nightgown after refusing to sign a post-nuptial agreement.
In a court declaration, however, Botach said he never made a deal with Boteach or promised her any portion of his fortune.
``At no time, ever, did I ever enter any 'oral cohabitation agreement' with (Boteach), and all the allegations to the contrary are a sham,'' Botach wrote.
Hirsh said he expects another hearing in the case in the next two months.
``She was blinded by love,'' Hirsh said of his client.
Troy Anderson, (213) 974-8985
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Feb 13, 2006|
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