Some days just don't go all that well.
Yesterday Cristina Ferrare, once the glamorous and embattled wife of an accused drug-smuggling auto magnate and now a talk show host, found out the man she married less than three months ago is not legally her husband. That is, she is still legally married to John Z. DeLorean, at least in the eyes of New Jersey.
Judge Michael R. Imbriani, matrimonial judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, said Ferrare's testimony during a hearing last week showed she had not qualified as a legal resident of California prior to the divorce that state granted this year, so the divorce was invalid.
Furthermore, Imbriani ruled, the couple's property and child custody dispute will be settled in New Jersey, where DeLorean claims residency and where the law requires "equitable distribution" of a couple's assets, as opposed to California, where the $10 million worth of property would be more likely to be split 50-50.
"We got everything we asked for," exulted John J. Trombadore, DeLorean's attorney in Somerville, N.J., near the 500-acre Bedminster Township estate the former auto manufacturer calls home.
"The fact that New Jersey says it has jurisdiction doesn't bind California," said Ferrare's New Jersey attorney, David Wildstein. "California takes the position the divorce is still valid." Wildstein said he will appeal the decision to New Jersey's State Supreme Court, bypassing the appellate court because of the urgency of the constituional issues involved. "DeLorean wants to have his cake and eat it too," he said. "He filed for divorce in California and New Jersey."
No one expects Cristina Ferrare to be sued for bigamy. But Trombadore said the question of whether DeLorean will contest the divorce this time around "has yet to be determined." He chose not to contest it in California "in order to protect his rights while the question in New Jersey was settled."
The issue is that Ferrare wants the property settled in California, where she now hosts a morning talk show five days a week, while DeLorean wants it handled in New Jersey. He filed for divorce in Somerville last October, at the same time she filed in California. California acted before New Jersey, but the Garden State seems to be having the last word -- at the moment.
"The last thing we want to do is foment dissent between the courts of California and New Jersey," Imbriani said. "But I have to acknowledge it is possible two states could disagree."
"We're not saying California was wrong," said his clerk, James O'Donohue. "They just didn't have the correct facts before them."
In April Ferrare married Anthony Thomopoulos, president of the ABC Broadcast Group, three weeks after her divorce from DeLorean was granted in California.
Trombadore said that testimony about which state was the couple's legal residence took up the better part of a day last week and fills about 700 pages of court transcript. DeLorean, who said he and his wife decided in February 1983 to make New Jersey their residence, has a New York driver's license (issued 4 1/2 years ago) and is not a registered voter anywhere. Ferrare's driver's license is from California, issued 14 years ago, he said.
Neither party was in court yesterday to hear Imbriani's decision, which took an hour to read. Trombadore said his client was in New York and would not be interviewed.
The most important questions left to be settled, Trombadore said, are custody of the couple's two children, Zachary, 13, and Kathryn, 8, and the validity of a prenuptial agreement. Imbriani left in place the couple's California agreement that Kathryn should live with her mother while Zachary, who is DeLorean's son from a prior marriage, should live with him. The judge said DeLorean could go ahead and enroll Zachary in school in New Jersey.
Before their 1973 marriage, Trombadore said, the couple signed a prenuptial agreement that if the marriage dissolved each person would receive back what personal property each brought to the marriage, as well as what each had accumulated personally during the years together.
He said both parties have kept their earnings and assets separate during the marriage. Ferrare at first denied the existence of the agreement, but now says it is invalid. There is a hearing on the prenuptial agreement scheduled July 15, Wildstein said -- in California.
If the terms of the prenuptial agreement are upheld, or used as the basis for a property settlement, DeLorean would claim title to the Bedminster estate, the New York condominium, and the California ranch. "Subject to all creditors' claims, of course," Trombadore said.
"Nobody expected this," Wildstein said. "It's an absolute shocker. But I am confident my client will prevail."