Bruce and Elena McMahan married in 2002. This was Bruce’s fifth marriage. He was about thirty years her senior and was a highly successful Wall Street executive. She was a native of Ukraine and worked as a bartender when they met on a cruise ship. Their marriage was short-lived and they stopped living together in late 2004. Bruce filed for divorce in January 2005, leading to McMahan v. McMahan.
A significant problem in their marriage was Bruce’s relationship with Linda, his adult daughter. Linda was a product of a short-lived affair between Bruce and another woman in California during the late 60s. In 1990, when Bruce met Linda and positively identified her as his daughter, he made her part of his family. When they met, Linda was a psychology student at San Diego State University.
Eventually, Linda joined her father’s financial empire. In 1998, her relationship with her father deepened. According to accounts, Bruce started an incestuous relationship with Linda that ended in 2002. However, their sexual relationship resumed in 2004. During this time, Bruce was married to Elena and Linda was married to a man named Sargent Schutt.
When Bruce and Elena’s marriage ended, a supposed demand letter from Elena to Bruce appeared. Among the alleged demands was that Bruce deposit $7 million in an account for Elena, pay $500,000 annually in child support per child, and sign over title to their Pelham Manor home in New York and their Fisher Island condo in Florida. Also in the demand letter is the following statement, “FYI: The evidence I have against you demonstrating adultery and incest are kept strictly confidential in several safe places with my note explaining the whole story. Once again, if you try to eliminate me, the world will know of your behavior and you will be punished by the government (criminally) and by God.”
At trial, it became clear that the demand letter was just a calculated claim by Bruce, who concocted the letter to gain leverage during trial. He never produced the original or a document signed by Elena.
In 2006, the Village Voice ran numerous articles discussing Bruce’s relationship with Linda. Word was out.
In the aftermath of Bruce’s betrayal by engaging in an adulterous and incestuous relationship, Bruce and Elena fought in family court. In a 2008 New York Supreme Court ruling, the Court ordered that Bruce pay Elena $100,000 for counsel fees in connection with the litigation and denied Bruce’s motion to compel Elena to pay all expenses for a mutually selected childcare provider. Bruce appealed.
During an October 2009 appeal, when Elena was represented by Levoritz Law Firm, the Appellate Court rejected Bruce’s appeal. Bruce claimed that the stipulation of settlement required each party to pay their individual counsel fees and that Elena was required to pay 100% of childcare costs. After oral argument, the Court rejected both claims: First, language in the stipulation of settlement reading “services rendered” (referring to counsel fees) is in the past tense. As such, litigation after the stipulation of settlement is not covered by the settlement. Second, Elena is required to pay 100% of childcare provider costs if she hires a provider. There was no agreement to actually employ a provider, just an obligation to pay if she employed one. The Court further declared that any reward is notwithstanding the parties’ disparate financial circumstances.
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