Erika Jayne’s Legal Drama & Divorce From Tom Girardi, Explained

The Real Housewives star and her estranged husband have been accused of filing for divorce to skirt claims of fraud and embezzlement.

Reality TV Personality Erika Jayne in 2019.
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It’s “Xxpensive” to be Erika Jayne, and fans are wondering where that money is coming from. In November 2020, the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star filed for divorce from Tom Girardi in Los Angeles, citing irreconcilable differences. Just one month later, her estranged husband was faced with fraud and embezzlement claims, with one lawsuit accusing Jayne of filing for divorce to avoid dealing with legal consequences. Ever since, as RHOBH Season 11 plays out on Bravo, all eyes have been on Jayne.

Thanks to ABC News’ new documentary The Housewife & The Hustler, Jayne, Girardi, and their legal drama is back in the spotlight once again. The special features former clients of Girardi who claim to be victims of his crimes, and it dissects how Jayne and Girardi would flaunt their wealth on RHOBH. As Jayne continues to star on the show, fans are wondering how deep Jayne is truly involved with the scandal, and asking if she’ll even have to face jail time at some point.

Most recently during the July 14 episode of RHOBH, Jayne broke her silence on the legal drama, denying accusations that divorce was a “sham” to hide assets and avoid embezzlement charges. She even said Girardi was “a piece of sh*t” who “steals from widows and orphans,” denying herself of any liability. However, after Jayne was accused of refusing to cooperate in Girardi and his law firm’s bankruptcy case in June, questions about her involvement and knowledge of her estranged husband’s legal struggles still remain. Here’s everything you need to know about Jayne’s legal drama.

Why Did Erika Jayne File For Divorce?

On November 3, 2020, which just so happened to be Election Day, Jayne announced that she had filed for divorce from Girardi. “After much consideration, I have decided to end my marriage to Tom Girardi,” she told E! News in a statement. “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 deserved.” According to her divorce filing, as obtained by PEOPLE, Jayne requested spousal support from her estranged husband and also requested Girardi to be forbidden from asking for spousal support from her. The couple had not signed a prenuptial agreement.

After Girardi’s legal scandal came to light, Jayne denied reports that she divorced Girardi due to his legal issues or in an attempt to avoid embezzlement claims. Instead, in December, Jayne accused Girardi of having an affair with another woman, and shared what she purported to be text message screenshots between Girardi and his alleged mistress, which appear to date back to 2011, on Instagram. “This is Justice Tricia A. Bigelow,” she captioned the post. “She was f*cking my husband Tom Girardi and he was paying her Saks bill and paying for her plastic surgery.” The post was quickly deleted minutes later.

What Has Erika Jayne Been Accused Of?

In December, Edelson PC filed a civil lawsuit against Girardi and his law firm, Girardi-Keese, accusing him of fraud and embezzlement. The suit alleges that he embezzled money from settlements that were made to Illinois-based relatives of victims who died in the 2018 Lion Air plane crash off the coast of Indonesia. Since then, many of Girardi’s former clients have come out to accuse him of not paying them settlement money that he won for them.

While most of his former clients mainly target Girardi, Edelson PC mentioned Jayne in their lawsuit, alleging that Girardi “resorted to embezzling the proceeds of settlements that should have been directed to his clients ... in order to continue funding his and Erika’s lavish Beverly Hills lifestyles.” On RHOBH, Jayne is often seen with her glam squad in tow, wearing designer clothes, bragging about her private jets, and showing off the Pasadena mansion she resided in with Girardi.

The suit accuses Jayne of filing for divorce to skirt embezzlement claims, stating that it was “simply a sham attempt to fraudulently protect Tom and Erika’s money from those that seek to collect on debts owed by Tom and his law firm GK.” According to the Los Angeles Times, creditors evaluating Girardi’s finances have alleged that he used $20 million from his firm to fund their lifestyles and his estranged wife’s music career. While some fans believe that Jayne didn’t know where the money came from, others have pointed to evidence that she may have known about Girardi’s financial struggles, including her signature on legal papers that allowed Girardi to borrow millions of dollars from a high-interest lender in 2019. Now, Girardi and his law firm are being investigated in a bankruptcy case, and Jayne is being dragged in.

In June, Jayne was accused of refusing to cooperate in Girardi and his law firm’s bankruptcy case. According to PEOPLE, the bankruptcy trustee's special litigation counsel, attorney Ronald Richards, alleged that Girardi Keese transferred $20 million to Erika’s business accounts, including one created after the embezzlement lawsuit was filed. On June 23, creditors in the case separately accused Jayne of refusing to turn over bank statements and other documents. “At every turn, Erika has used the glam to continue to aid and abet this sham transactions that have been occurring with respect to large transfers of assets from [Girardi Keese] to Erika,” the motion said. “Moreover, the Trustee has received zero cooperation from Erika which is constant with someone hiding assets.”

Jayne fired back in her own court filing two days later, with her lawyers writing that she “has been and remains willing to cooperate fully with the Trustee's investigation in this bankruptcy of debtor Girardi & Keese.” She also requested the court to reconsider its decision to appoint Richards as the special counsel to the trustee, claiming that he made “false and inflammatory” statements about Jayne on social media. On June 28, the court ruled in favor of the creditors, ordering Jayne’s landlord, divorce lawyer, and accountant to turn over various “key documents” pertaining to her finances.

Will Erika Jayne’s Legal Issues Be Shown On RHOBH?

Housewives honcho Andy Cohen promised that Jayne will be talking about her situation on RHOBH Season 11, and so far, she’s delivered. Jayne opened up about her decision to divorce Girardi on the June 23 episode, after revealing the news to some of her castmates in a group text. But that was nothing compared to their upcoming legal issues. On the July 14 episode, which was filmed after Girardi was sued by Edelson PC, Jayne denied accusations that her divorce was a “sham” to avoid embezzlement charges, saying that she “wouldn't f*cking know” how to hide assets. “It took a lot of courage to leave and it took two seconds for some a**hole to say it was a sham and everybody to believe it,” she said in a confessional.

“People think that Erica Jayne brought down Tom Girardi. Tom Girardi brought down Tom Girardi. I don’t want his actions to absolutely kill what I have created. I fear starting over. The only thing I have is my name and the hope that this is not where this ends for me.”

Speaking to co-stars Kyle Richards and Lisa Rinna over FaceTime, Jayne was asked if she was “totally in the dark” about the situation, and clarified who was being targeted. “You have to remember: it is the firm that they’re dragging in,” she said. “So they’re suing the firm, and I’m being attached to it.” However, Jayne declined to answer how she found out about the embezzlement case or explain why she was named in the lawsuit when asked by a producer. Instead, she simply told Richards and Rinna that the lawsuit “means a lot of things” and said Girardi is not financially supporting her through it.

Later in the episode, during a gathering with Rinna and Crystal Kung Minkoff, Jayne said the accusation that her divorce was a sham was “painful.” She went on to call her estranged husband “a piece of sh*t” who “steals from widows and orphans,” and expressed fear over how his alleged actions could drastically affect her. “People think that Erica Jayne brought down Tom Girardi,” she said in a confessional. “Tom Girardi brought down Tom Girardi. I don’t want his actions to absolutely kill what I have created. I fear starting over. The only thing I have is my name and the hope that this is not where this ends for me.”

As seen in the RHOBH Season 11 trailer, there’s only more to come. Jayne is forthcoming about her divorce, tearfully telling her co-stars that she didn’t see their split coming. “I did not see it ending this way,” she said. “I was gonna hold that man’s hand until he died.” However, she may get tight-lipped about the legal drama. When Garcelle Beauvais asked Jayne whether she had a “heads-up” about Girardi’s legal troubles, she slowly nods her head to indicate yes before saying, “No, I did not.” In another scene, she tells the ladies at a dinner table, “No one knows the answer but him.” However, castmate Sutton Stracke apparently questions Jayne in the trailer, though the exact subject matter that riles Jayne up is unclear. “I am not a liar,” Jayne tells her, seething. “You have a lot of f*cking nerve.”

How Has Tom Girardi Been Impacted?

While no legal action has been filed against Jayne, Girardi has lost his license to practice law in California, and a judge froze all of his assets in December 2020 while he’s under investigation. Their former Pasadena mansion is currently for sale at $13 million.

MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images/MediaNews Group/Getty Images

In addition, according to court documents obtained by US Weekly, Girardi has reportedly been diagnosed with late-onset Alzheimer’s and dementia. As a result, he’s been placed under a temporary conservatorship, with his brother Robert now in charge of his financial and medical decisions. “My brother presently needs me to make all decisions related to this bankruptcy case, all legal matters in which he is presently involved, and also to make all decisions related to his personal matters, such as health decisions,” Robert said during a Feb. 1 hearing.

In June, the conservatorship was made permanent, with Robert being appointed the primary conservator of Tom's "person and estate.” The judge found that Girardi "consents and does not object" to the conservatorship. However, he expressed his discontent with the situation at the hearing, according to Law360. "Obviously, I disagree with the conservatorship altogether," he said. “I think that we should put together the reasons why the conservatorship should be dissolved, and then we'll address the court. Right now, I have nothing to say to the court.”

What Is The Housewife & The Hustler?

The Housewife & The Hustler is an ABC News documentary special that outlines the allegations against Girardi and discusses Jayne’s potential role in the drama. The doc includes interviews with some of Girardi’s accusers, including Joe Ruigomez, whose family alleged that Girardi withheld settlement money he secured from Pacific Gas & Electric after they were found at fault for the San Bruno gas line fire that severely burned Joe. The special also features Bias Ramadhan, whose mother died in the Indonesia plane crash and said Girardi also didn’t pay him the money he was promised. “We are the victims here,” he said in the doc. “Not him, Tom — not his wife.”

Neither Jayne nor Girardi participated or have commented on the special. However, Cohen has spoken out about the documentary, criticizing its use of two former Housewives stars. “I will say the idea that Danielle Staub and Dana Wilkey are the experts in this documentary about Erika is questionable at best,” he told a caller on his show Radio Andy. “So I kind of realized I wasn’t going to learn anything new from them about Erika.” While he doesn’t think the special will affect Jayne’s future on the show, he did call the allegations against Girardi disturbing. “We have to see how this plays out,” he said.

Did Erika Jayne's Lawyers Drop Her?

On June 15, the day after The Housewife & The Hustler premiered on Hulu, Jayne’s attorneys announced that they were no longer representing her in Girardi’s Chapter 7 bankruptcy case. “The relationship of trust and confidence that is essential to a properly functioning attorney-client relationship has broken down and, in the good faith assessment of counsel, the relationship is irreparable,” Dinsmore & Shohl LLP wrote in court documents confirming their withdrawal from the case, according to People.

However, just two days later, the law firm withdrew their notion and announced their intention to keep working with Jayne in the bankruptcy case, meaning she did not have to find new legal representation.

Will Erika Jayne Or Tom Girardi Face Jail Time?

Neither Jayne nor Girardi have been charged with state or federal crimes for the government, so it’s too soon to speculate whether either of them will face jail time. However, Jayne is actively attempting to prevent courts from taking her assets that some believe to have come from embezzled settlement money, claiming that they were gifts from Girardi and not community property. This could go many different ways, but it seems that Jayne isn’t backing down without a fight.

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