Two Manhattan lawyers and a couple from New Jersey have been slapped with over $543,000 in court sanctions according to a report in The penalty was imposed by a Manhattan judge for causing undue delay in the divorce proceeding of the New Jersey couple’s son.

According to New Jersey divorce lawyers, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Ellen Gesmer noted in two decisions that Ophira and Heshy Gottlieb from Edison, New Jersey, were the ones to orchestrate the litigation between Michael and Lauren, their son and daughter-in-law respectively. The judge noted that they caused a prolonged and expensive legal battle with the primary intention of intimidating Lauren.

Lauren’s divorce attorney, Karen Rosenthal, said that the grandparents sought 50% custody of their 8 year old daughter. The couple was married in 2005 but their relationship became strained after Michael suffered a brain aneurism in October 2008. This was only a year and a half after their daughter was born. Both were employed in the healthcare industry.

Grandmother forcefully takes over son’s care

According to reports, 33 year old Lauren Gottlieb was in charge of caring for her husband following the brain damage. Treatment involved four surgeries and over a year in rehab. However, Michael’s mother forcefully took charge, removed her son from one facility and secluded him from Lauren in 2009.

According to Judge Gesmer, following the filing of divorce papers in 2010, the senior Gottliebs took charge of the litigation on their son’s behalf and ordered his divorce attorneys to try and prolong the hearing as long as possible. Incidentally, they were made to argue that 34 year old Michael sought custody of his 8 year old daughter despite him not wanting to do so.

Grandparents engage in frivolous litigation; made to pay

Judge Gesmer also observed that the grandparents deliberately made every attempt to interfere with the upbringing of the grandchild in terms of a relationship with the father and engaged in frivolous litigation. She also accused them of ignoring court subpoenas, probably something their New Jersey divorce attorneys frowned upon.

Earlier in December 2013, the same judge found the senior Gottliebs guilty of contempt and ordered them to pay $213,515.29 towards their daughter-in-law’s legal fees which had already crossed $900,000. In addition, Lauren was granted full custody while Michael was made to contribute $100,000 towards legal expenses.

Attorneys also at the receiving end

In the new judgment, Judge Gesmer Michael’s New Jersey divorce lawyers were called out for frivolous conduct and misrepresentation of facts in court. She ordered the attorneys and their law firm to pay over $317,000 towards Lauren’s legal expenses. The judge also noted that the law firm failed to notify Lauren’s lawyers that their son was not interested in the custody of their child. She said their motion to quash court subpoenas was frivolous while they also misled the court on the grandparents’ compliance.

Lauren Gottleib’s divorce attorney said the judge’s decision was a warning to lawyers to refrain from such practices and guide their clients to be reasonable and rationale. She was of the opinion that this was one of the most unique and rare decisions in a divorce hearing.