Scott Ghormley, family law attorney at Rose Law Group, comments on: High-stakes divorce battle over control of iconic real estate — and a really expensive collection of duck decoys

By Andrea Estes | Boston Globe

The divorce was going smoothly, as divorces go. After all, filmmaker Ernestine “Tina” Rathborne and real estate magnate Philip Y. DeNormandie of Cambridge had been through this before: They divorced back in 1987 only to remarry five years later.

But then Rathborne found out about the duck decoys.

DeNormandie, an avid conservationist, had recently spent a staggering $532,964.50 on hand-carved wooden ducks and other wildlife art, despite a judge’s order not to buy or sell anything significant during divorce proceedings. And the buying spree wasn’t reflected in the financial disclosures he filed with the court before the case went to trial.

Rathborne became convinced her soon-to-be-ex-spouse was trying to conceal the full extent of their considerable wealth. So she hired experts to look for undisclosed or undervalued assets in DeNormandie’s financial disclosures.

From there, the once amicable divorce turned mean. In court documents, he accused her of being unstable. He said she tricked him into marrying her the second time by getting pregnant. He said she lived an extravagant lifestyle with a large personal staff that included an employee whose duties include brushing her dogs’ teeth.

She countered that she had to leave DeNormandie because she had become afraid of his temper and he was so controlling he once refused to let her go to the bathroom during a four-hour car ride. And she said that his complaints about her lifestyle were unfair, considering his own.


“No amount of wealth or financial success can insulate someone from the hard reality that is divorce. What often makes divorce much more hostile is when the parties try to get around the rules or gain the upper hand by failing to make honest disclosures of assets or deliberately hiding property. Whether a divorcing couple is living paycheck to paycheck, or arguing over the division of nearly 150 properties, the rules apply the same to everyone.”

Scott Ghormley, family law attorney at Rose Law Group

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March 2023