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Due to Bigamous Marriage, NY Lawyer Can’t Now Foreclose on Loan to ‘Wife’

Posted Jan 9, 2009 3:20 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A New York lawyer who married a woman almost 20 years his junior when he was in his early fifties can't foreclose on what he now says was a loan to help her obtain $285,000 in mortgages to buy a condominium in Greenwich Village without providing more evidence to show what actually happened, a state appeals court has ruled.

Although attorney Joseph Rosenzweig described himself as a bachelor when he married Radiah Givens in Jamaica around 2004, he actually was already married, although Givens apparently didn't know this at the time. Plus, after helping her purchase the apartment in 2002, by making a $31,700 down payment, he also paid the expenses for several years until their relationship soured, recounts a New York Law Journal article that is reprinted in New York Lawyer (reg. req.).

So, under these and other facts, it wasn't appropriate for the trial court to reject, in a summary judgment motion, Givens' argument that the money Rosenzweig provided toward the condominium purchase was a gift, rather than a loan. Under the "highly unusual circumstances of this case," writes Justice Karla Moskowitz of the Appellate Division, First Department, more scrutiny should have been given to the facts of the case before deciding whether Givens' signature on mortgage documents was sufficient to show that she understood she was entering into a loan.

Givens contended at the trial court level that Rosenzweig had told her she must sign the mortgage documents to qualify for his gift, perhaps with the idea that she was helping him obtain mortgage proceeds, according to the opinion. Both she and Rosenzweig, who is a sole practitioner specializing in personal injury and real estate matters, were represented in transactions related to the condominium by an attorney friend of his.

After learning that Rosenzweig already was married, Givens obtained an annulment, the article says.

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