A decade after Alicia Stephenson left the 30,000-square-foot home she shared with her multimillionaire husband on a 180-acre northwest suburban estate, a divorce judge soon could decide whether she is entitled to $400,000 a month in living expenses.
Stephenson has argued she needs that much money to live the privileged lifestyle to which she had become accustomed during her marriage to Richard Stephenson, founder of Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
Alicia Stephenson, who argues she was an integral part of her husband’s business success, also is seeking millions of dollars from various trusts and entities established during the marriage. And she wants to reclaim a Porsche she received as a wedding present and other luxury items.
A divorce between the two became final last year. Now, closing arguments have been submitted in writing to McHenry County Judge James Cowlin, wrapping up months in the portion of the case that will determine financial support, known as maintenance.
A court date is set for Wednesday where Cowlin could decide what Stephenson deserves, bringing the lengthy divorce proceedings to a close. She currently receives $65,800 a month in temporary spousal support.
Cowlin has patiently sat through dozens of oftentimes laborious and acrimonious hearings where bickering lawyers hurled objections and sifted through a web of financial documents and where witnesses described the opulent lifestyle Stephenson enjoyed during the marriage.
She and her husband met when she was just 19 and he was in his 40s and married to his first wife. A few years later, in 1991, Alicia Stephenson married the “man of her dreams” in a three-day “romantic fairy tale” wedding event on Richard Stephenson’s Tudor Oaks estate in Barrington Hills, wrote her lawyer, Elizabeth Felt Wakeman, in her closing arguments.
She wore the finest clothes and donned exquisite jewels. In court, she and witnesses spoke of the Stephensons hosting lavish parties with celebrity entertainers, traveling on their multiple private jets, cruising on yachts and driving fine cars and motorcycles.
The couple treated friends and business associates to fine dinners, sporting events and concerts in private suites and spoiled them with gifts and vacations.
This is the type of lifestyle Alicia Stephenson said she hopes to enjoy once again.
But today, at age 52, she claims to be in deep credit card debt and unable to land a job. She said that although she was his partner and helped her husband, now 77, build his empire during their marriage by sitting on various hospital boards, participating in business meetings, helping make investment decisions and raising millions of dollars for cancer research, she lacks the formal education or degrees to land a job.
Richard Stephenson’s lawyers have sought to downplay Alicia Stephenson’s role in her husband’s business affairs and presented a prenuptial agreement in court showing that she was expected to pursue higher education and a career. Richard wanted his young wife to grow and learn so she could one day become self-sufficient, his lawyers have said.
Richard Stephenson’s lawyer, David Grund, has said Alicia Stephenson was less a partner in her husband’s business and more of a wife who was fortunate to enjoy the fruits of her husband’s hard work. Once Grund went so far as to say she “was along for the ride.”
The couple have one adult daughter. Richard Stephenson has since remarried.
Along with the monthly maintenance, and the millions of dollars she says she is owed from various entities and trusts, Alicia Stephenson also wants “repayment” of money he has spent since their separation that she says came out of marital funds. That, according to Wakeman’s closing argument, included $4 million spent on his union ceremony in 2014 to his new wife and millions of dollars spent building a home in Arizona.
In the closing argument, Wakeman accuses Richard Stephenson and his team of lawyers, often about six in the courtroom, of “incessant bullying and obstruction.”
She repeatedly accuses them of “fraud” and “deception” and claims the team has repeatedly ignored the rules of the court in refusing to provide pertinent discovery and financial documents.
She accuses Richard Stephenson of moving money and assets around to various entities so it is unclear how much money he is worth or how much Alicia Stephenson is entitled to.
Alicia Stephenson is “consistently on an uneven playing field,” Wakeman wrote.
The McHenry County court clerk’s office said the written closing argument for Richard Stephenson — unlike that for Alicia Stephenson — is impounded and not available for public examination.
However, a representative of Richard Stephenson issued a statement Thursday in response to Wakeman’s claims.
“Ms. Wakeman has been sanctioned by the court for her disregard of court rules and her claims against Mr. Stephenson and his lawyers are, at best, disingenuous,” the statement reads. “Her claims are completely meritless and it appears that she is attempting to try this case in the court of public opinion rather than based on the facts and evidence presented to the judge. While Ms. Wakeman continues her spurious efforts to derail this trial, we have made good faith efforts to bring this case to a close so that both parties can put this matter behind them and move forward with their lives.”