Pat the … divorce papers. After Erika Jayne went to court to end her marriage to Tom Girardi, Bravo fans were shocked to learn that what seemed like one of the strongest couples in Real Housewives history was not so picture-perfect after all.
The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star announced in November 2020 that she and the powerhouse attorney had called it quits after 21 years of marriage. A source later told Us Weekly exclusively, “Erika and Tom had an unconventional marriage, spending a lot of time apart.”
Erika, who shares adult son Tommy with ex-husband Thomas Zizzo, met Tom in the late 1990s while waitressing at one of his favorite West Hollywood hot spots, Chasen’s. One year later, she decided to give him her phone number, and he subsequently reached out to her through his secretary.
“I told her, ’Tell Mr. Girardi if he wants to take me out on a date, he needs to call me himself and ask me and give me enough time to prepare,’” the Bravo personality recalled in her 2018 memoir, Pretty Mess. “You know how men are, especially if they are successful. They expect you to drop everything right away. That’s not how I work, I don’t care who you are.”
Six months into their relationship, Erika and the lawyer got engaged. They married in January 1999.
“For the first 10 years of our marriage, I was by Tom’s side,” the “XXPEN$IVE” singer said in a February 2017 episode of RHOBH. “I was even the first lady of a couple legal organizations. Imagine that!”
Due to Tom’s high-power job, he has only made a few appearances on the reality series since Erika joined the cast in 2015. It is likely that their divorce will play out during season 11, which began filming in early October 2020.
“People are always like, ‘Oh, you guys don’t see each other a lot.’ But when we do see each other, it’s 100 percent, full-on attention,” the former Chicago star said in the February 2017 episode. “This is what people don’t understand. It’s not a detriment to the relationship. It’s actually helpful. It’s better than someone being in your face all the time and you’re not even present.”
Scroll down for everything we know so far about the Girardis’ divorce.
This is an ongoing article that was originally published in November 2020 and last updated on Thursday, September 9.
Erika Broke It Off
The Atlanta native confirmed in a statement to Us in November 2020 that she “decided to end” her marriage to Tom “after much consideration.” She added, “This is not a step taken lightly or easily. I have great love and respect for Tom and for our years and the lives we built together. It is my absolute wish to proceed through this process with respect and with the privacy that both Tom and I deserve. I request others give us that privacy as well.”
They Were on Different Paths
A source exclusively told Us in November 2020 that it was not uncommon for the now-estranged couple to go “several months” without seeing each other. “They would travel separately. Tom gave Erika a very lavish lifestyle, and she enjoyed it,” the insider said. “Erika has gained independence and confidence from being on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. The exposure it has given for her singing career has given Erika a much larger fan base.”
They Don’t Have a Prenup
Erika told Andy Cohen in June 2017 that she and Tom never signed a prenuptial agreement. “I’m married to a very powerful lawyer. A prenup wouldn’t stand in his way anyway,” she said at the time. “So it doesn’t matter whether you had one or you didn’t, it’s gonna be all Tom’s way, I assure you.”
The Fraud Lawsuit
Erika and Tom were hit with a lawsuit in December 2020 that accused them of embezzling settlement funds intended to help the families of Lion Air Flight 610 victims. In federal court documents obtained by Us, the class action firm Edelson PC claimed that the estranged couple’s divorce is “a sham attempt to fraudulently protect Tom and Erika’s money” and that they “are on the verge of financial collapse and locked in a downward spiral of mounting debts and dwindling funds.” Erika and Tom did not immediately comment on the allegations.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Erika was called to testify in the fraud case in May 2020 and September 2020 — before she filed for divorce that November. She was out of town on both occasions and her hearing was rescheduled for January 2021, but she’s yet to testify.
Erika Wants Spousal Support
Erika requested spousal support from Tom in November 2020, according to court documents obtained by Us, in which she citied “irreconcilable differences” as the reason for their split. She also asked Tom to pay her attorney’s fees and demanded that the court block her estranged husband from seeking spousal support from her.
Tom Does Not Want to Pay Spousal Support
In November 25, 2020, court documents obtained by Us, Tom requested to terminate the court’s ability to award spousal support to Erika. He also asked her to pay his legal fees.
The Truth About Tom’s Finances
Tom told the court in September 2020 that he has “maybe a couple thousand” dollars in a personal bank account, adding that his stock portfolio of millions was “all gone.”
He said: “At one point I had about $80 million or $50 million in cash. That’s all gone. I don’t have any money.”
He added that he hasn’t “taken a penny in salary out of the firm for more than two years.”
In December 2020, a judge in Chicago seized Tom’s assets after allegations that the estranged couple withheld $2 million in client funds following the 2018 Lion Air Flight 610 crash. Tom did not attend the contempt hearing at the time, but instead called into the proceedings.
According to court documents obtained by Us, Tom was secretly hospitalized for a “serious illness” in 2020. An attorney at his firm brought up the illness during a December court date, telling the judge that Tom was “unavailable in recent weeks due to a serious illness that caused him to be hospitalized for which he sought treatment.”
The paperwork stated Tom “couched everything” related to the fraud case in July 2020 because he was forced to be away from his firm amid his hospitalization. He also cited his illness as the cause of the “mistake” of not getting some of the families paid in full.
The Los Angeles Times also reported that one of Tom’s attorneys believed he should be subject to a mental examination. “I’m unsure that he understands either the nature or the gravity of the current situation,” the lawyer told the judge, noting the team is concerned about his mental competency.
In January 2021, his brother Robert Girardi claimed Tom was suffering from short-term memory loss and requested he become his conservator as Tom is “not capable of making rational decisions” when it comes to his finances.
Edelson suggested that there is more to the story with Tom’s sickness. “I’m not a doctor, I don’t know. But what I can tell you is that it seemed very convenient,” Edelson told Kate Casey in June 2021. “When we put out the facts that we found through our investigation of the types of things he was trying to do, during the time he had Alzheimer’s, where he was really scheming, he was scheming to protect himself from the fraud. He was scheming to try to keep as many possessions as possible, he was scheming to try to sell cases that he had in the pipeline to other firms.”
Tom’s Partners Sue
According to court docs published by several outlets in December 2020, Tom’s business partners Robert Keese, Robert Finnerty and Jill O’Callahan are suing him too, claiming he never paid them approximately $315,000 in income from the partnership. Keese, Finnerty and O’Callahan dissolve the partnership and liquidate the assets, alleging Tom took money from their business “for his own personal gain” and took out business loans without their knowledge of his own use.
Wells Fargo Suit
The bank is also suing Tom and his Girardi Keese firm, alleging he didn’t make monthly payments for rent, taxes, fees and more on their office. According to the paperwork obtained by Us, the group owes Wells Fargo $882,000. Wells Fargo is also seeking interest at 10 percent per annum from the date of default and wants to seize Girardi Keese’s Los Angeles and San Bernardino, California, properties.
Sources told Us in December that Erika believes Tom cheated on her during their 21-year marriage. “Erika is really going through it. She’s very strong, but this has been very hard for her emotionally,” an insider told Us. A second source claimed that rumors that Erika and Tom “had an agreement in terms of being with other people” weren’t true. Tom has yet to comment on the infidelity accusations.
What Erika Knew
A source told Us that Erika never thought Tom “could be capable of doing what he has been accused of in court.”
“Erika was completely unaware of the very serious allegations that were being made against Tom in court,” the source told Us, referring to the fraud accusations. “Tom always handled all of the finances and that was how they handled things. Erika feels betrayed by Tom because she completely trusted him. She is just reeling from all of this, but make no mistake. Erika is a tough cookie and she isn’t stupid. She will get through this.”
According to a second source, Erika is still in “disbelief” about the alleged cheating and legal drama: “The legal issues are unfolding one after another and she’s learning as everyone’s filing. As the whole world is finding out about it, she’s finding out about it. She’s reading about it in the press before she even sees it [from her lawyers].”
While she has seemingly maintained her innocence in all RHOBH footage, Jay Edelson, the lawyer who filed the class action lawsuit against the pair, claimed she was aware of the scheme.
“We believe we’re going to be able to prove that Erika was incredibly involved in not just the law firm, but also, he was loaning money to her company 10s of millions of dollars to her company,” Edelson said on the “Reality Life with Kate Casey” podcast in June 2021. “And we think that money came from client funds. And we’re going to look into all of that. And that’s all going to be, you know, part of proof that we showed to a jury — that she was knee-deep in this fraud, and she can say, ‘Oh, she didn’t know anything about it.’ And I think that’s going be hard for to convince a jury of.”
“This is Justice Tricia A. Bigelow. She was f–king my husband Tom Girardi and he was paying her Saks bill and paying for her plastic surgery,” Erika captioned an Instagram post on December 18, sharing screenshots of texts.
Justice Bigelow’s Response
The judge’s lawyer released a statement to the L.A. Times, saying, Erika’s “actions in maliciously doxxing the Justice were nothing short of criminal.”
The attorney added: “We are considering our options to protect Justice Bigelow from further harassment.”
Erika’s New Digs
According to court documents obtained by Us in January 2021, Erika moved out of her $15 million mansion with Tom and into a three-bedroom house in Los Angeles. The new home is estimated to be worth $2,408,937 or $9,500 a month in rent, per Zillow.
Back to Court
Tom appeared virtually in court on June 9, 2021, and told the judge he “disagree[d]” with the conservatorship. “I think that we should put together the reasons why the conservatorship should be dissolved, and then we’ll address it, address the court,” he said. “Right now, I have nothing to say to the court.”
The judge subsequently ruled that Robert should still be named Tom’s conservator.
Erika’s Lawyer Files Petition
Us confirmed on June 15, 2021, that Erika’s bankruptcy attorney filed a petition to withdraw his representation of the RHOBH star. Peter Mastan made the move one day after The Housewife and the Hustler started streaming.
Hulu’s The Housewife and the Hustler, which started streaming on June 14, 2021, aired the “never-before-aired deposition tape of Girardi” and featured RHOBH alum Dana Wilkey, Real Housewives of New Jersey alum Danielle Staub and L.A. legal professionals Chris Darden, Brian Kabateck and Neil Wertlieb.
In the doc, several of Tom’s alleged victims told their stories, including Joe Ruigomez, who said the former attorney “basically robbed” him from his settlement money after he was severely burned and scarred in 2010’s San Bruno gas pipeline explosion. The Ruigomez family and Josie Hernandez, who hasn’t received a $135,000 settlement owed to her by Girardi Keese, played voicemails from Tom promising to get their money to them as soon as he could.
Breaking Her Silence
Erika briefly addressed the divorce for the first time on the June 16, 2021, episode of RHOBH.
“There’s so many layers to this divorce. It’s so f—king complicated. It’s very difficult to explain,” she told the cameras.
During a promo for the July 14, 2021, episode Erika spoke about the class action lawsuit for the first time.
“What’s being said is just, I mean, it’s insane,” she said. “That lawsuit that says my divorce is a sham so I could hide assets — people want to believe that. … I could have never predicted this f—king s—t.”
Why She Left
She went even more into detail about the separation during the June 23, 2021, episode, telling the cast, “I let go of my Lamborghini. I let go of my 16,000 square foot home. I let go of my marriage. I let go of everything. I literally made a decision that I had to.”
She also told the cameras that she “left because he pushed me further and further out” and she knew the “marriage was headed down a really sh–ty path.”
He Had No Idea
Erika told the women during the June 23, 2021, episode that she “didn’t leave a note” and just disappeared, leaving him to get served.
“I drove him to work, I told him I loved him and he said, ‘Thanks, hun.’ Like I was an employee,” she explained of the last time she’d seen Tom. “I went home and started putting everything in the moving van. I drove off, went to my new place, spent the night there and he was served the next morning.”
A Legal Change?
Erika’s legal team requested that the judge in her case reconsider appointing Ronald Richards as the bankruptcy trustee lawyer after he made comments about her on social media.
Court documents from June 2021 claimed that the attorney “has made false and inflammatory social media posts and public statements” about the RHOBH star. Her lawyers also questioned whether Richards’ posts “violate the ethical rules to which he is bound.”
Richards, for his part, said in a statement to Us that he was “hopeful that Erika’s new attorneys will cooperate with our investigation and we can move forward in a positive direction and complete our work.”
He added: “The court made no restrictions or gag orders in this case. If those rules change, our speech will change. The case is interesting for the public and I have enjoyed communicating with people all over the world about numerous legal issues. I look forward to working positively with her new attorney.”
As Richards and Erika continued to fight via social media, she told him he was “finally” on the right track after “a year of looking in the wrong direction” in October 2021 when he posted, “What does [every] attorney who worked at Girardi Keese as either an Associate, quasi Partner, or Manager have in common? Answer: Not one of them has taken responsibility for the clients they were obligated to protect and serve or gifted back any of their bonuses or salaries.”
After Erika’s original lawyers filed a petition to be removed from her case — then filed a second motion to stay on the case — the RHOBH star hired a new attorney to represent her. Us confirmed that she filed paperwork in July 2021 notifying the judge that her new lawyer is Evan C. Borges. Mastan, meanwhile, is no longer on the case.
The Collections Lawsuit
According to court documents obtained by Us, Erika may have to repay settlement funds intended for Tom’s former clients. A judge ruled on July 6, 2021, that Joe Ruigomez, Jaime Ruigomez and Kathy Ruigomez can move forward with a collections lawsuit against Erika to obtain the $11 million they are owed from Tom.
“The Ruigomez Family, the Girardi Trustee and the GK Trustee shall cooperate with each other with their collection efforts against Erika,” the paperwork read.
Making It Official
Tom’s brother, Robert Girardi, became the effective person of the former attorney’s person and estate in July 2021. Court documents listed the reason for the conservatorship as Tom’s dementia diagnosis, classifying the condition as a “major neurocognitive disorder.”
Selling Their Property
After the former couple listed their massive mansion in Pasadena for a sale price of $13 million in May 2021, they’ve since dropped the price on the historic estate to $9.9 million in July 2021 amid their ongoing divorce and court proceedings.
Us confirmed in October 2021 that Tom and Erika’s La Quinta property sold for $1.25 million. The profits will be used “to pay any unpaid property taxes, valid liens, homeowner’s association fees, real estate brokers’ commissions (5 percent) and related sale costs directly from escrow on the Property,” per court docs.
The $25 Million
In August 2021, the trustee overseeing the bankruptcy case for Girardi Keese sued Erika for $25 million. According to court documents obtained by Us, the trustee accused the reality star of knowing that the firm paid her expenses for at least 12 years. The trustee requested that the court order here to pay back the $25 million she allegedly spent plus interest. The suit also argued that she should be personally held responsible for the funds even though the money allegedly went to her company, EJ Global LLC. “She attempts to create a distinction between handling her money directly versus paying all of her bills directly,” the documents read. “The distinction, like her prior motion for reconsideration, is meritless. Any payments made for her benefit are her responsibility.”