Berman's wife sues for divorce - East Valley Tribune: News

Berman's wife sues for divorce

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Posted: Thursday, August 7, 2008 8:11 pm | Updated: 10:45 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

She has accused her husband of punching her, threatening her and plotting to kill a member of the Gilbert Town Council. Now, the wife of Gilbert Mayor Steve Berman says she wants out.

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Michelle Berman sued her husband for divorce on Monday and unveiled a pre-marriage agreement the couple drew up before they wed last November.

The divorce filing comes just weeks after the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office began investigating accusations that the mayor was physically abusive before and during their marriage.

Investigators have since ended the inquiry and turned their findings over to the county attorney's office, which will decide whether to charge the mayor with a crime.

In her new filing, Michelle Berman says little about the alleged abuse other than making a passing reference to the criminal investigation.

However, she points out that Steve Berman, in responding to the domestic violence allegations, accused her of abusing prescription drugs.

Michelle Berman "was the subject of a deluge of personal attacks in the media," the court filing says.

Because of this, she has asked the court to hide the whole divorce from the public view, arguing it will benefit both her and her estranged husband to keep it private.

As of Thursday, a judge had not granted the request to seal the case.

Neither Michelle nor Steve Berman returned calls for comment. The mayor's attorney for the criminal investigation, Mel McDonald, said he wasn't handling the divorce.

As part of the filing, Michelle Berman also revealed their prenuptial agreement, which was signed on Halloween last year.

In it, the couple agreed to keep most of their belongings and money separate during the marriage. In the event of a divorce, both would hang on to their previous possessions, including houses, cars and cash.

The agreement also shows that Steve Berman, despite his $36,000 salary as mayor, has a considerable net worth.

His biggest assets, according to what he said in the prenuptial agreement, are his house in Gilbert, which he valued at nearly $1.7 million, and property in Mohave County, which he said is worth more than $1 million.

Maricopa County Assessor's Office records, however, value the Gilbert house at about $1 million, and similar records in Mohave County show the land there is worth about $140,000.

Michelle Berman, on the other hand, is worth nearly $500,000, most of which comes from her own house in Gilbert, according to the documents.

Overall, Michelle Berman asked the court to split their assets as agreed on before the marriage, with one exception: She wants the mayor to pay the entire bill for the divorce.

Also on Thursday, Steve Berman's defense attorney, McDonald, said he has asked the court to let the mayor appeal a recent restraining order by his wife.

The filing was not yet available through the court clerk's office, but McDonald said the request was a detailed response to Michelle Berman's accusations.

"I did a little more than I normally do because her accusations are so damn inflaming, we couldn't just say 'denied' and request a hearing," McDonald said. "There's a little sparring in there."

Acting on the request for protection, a judge two weeks ago ordered Steve Berman to turn over his guns and ammunition to authorities and stay away from his wife.

The court will likely hold a hearing on the matter in the coming weeks, McDonald said.

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