In November 2020, Erika Girardi, a.k.a. Erika Jayne, shocked fans of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills when she filed for divorce from her husband of more than 20 years, Tom Girardi. What has followed since are allegations of infidelity and embezzlement, so we don't blame you if you are still catching up. Here's everything you need to know:
The two first met while Erika was cocktail-waitressing at the Los Angeles restaurant Chasen's, where he was a regular, she told PEOPLE in 2018. After a yearlong friendship, Girardi asked her out. They wed in 1999 at the establishment.
Girardi told PEOPLE in 2018, “What was really important to me was my relationship. Tom wasn’t going to change. He was a grown man. It really was two people coming together who really enjoy each other’s company.” She added, “Tom is so bright. He understands the trick to life. I love getting his advice.”
The couple's age gap — 33 years — has long been a subject of conversation on the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. She told PEOPLE, "Everyone thought I was marrying him to have a baby and lock down the money, as ugly as that sounds."
On Nov. 3, 2020, after 22 years of marriage, Erika, 49, filed for divorce from Tom, 81. In a statement obtained by PEOPLE, Erika said, "After much consideration, I have decided to end my marriage to Tom Girardi. 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," she added. "I request others give us that privacy as well."
According to Erika's divorce filing, obtained by PEOPLE, the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star asked that she be paid spousal support by Tom and also requested to terminate the court's ability to award spousal support to her ex. The pair does not have a prenup.
Tom responded by asking to terminate the court's ability to award spousal support to Erika. He also requested that she pay the attorney fees and costs.
“After much consideration, I have decided to end my marriage to Tom Girardi. 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.”
One month after the shocking split, it was announced that the couple is being sued for allegedly using their split to embezzle money.
According to a complaint filed in an Illinois federal court on Dec. 3, the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star and her lawyer husband are being sued by law firm Edelson PC on behalf of several families who lost loved ones in a Boeing plane crash.
In the court documents, obtained by PEOPLE, the plaintiffs allege that Tom and Erika embezzled settlement funds meant to help the families of victims on Lion Air Flight 610.
"Tom has resorted to embezzling the proceeds of settlements that should have been directed to his clients — including, as the basis for this Complaint, the widows and orphans who lost loved ones in the tragic crash of Lion Air Flight 610 — in order to continue funding his and Erika’s lavish Beverly Hills lifestyles," the documents state.
Tom’s law firm, Girardi & Keese (GK), is also named in the suit, which claims both Tom and the firm "are on the verge of financial collapse and locked in a downward spiral of mounting debts and dwindling funds."
The suit claims that this incident is not "the first attempt by Tom to hide and divert assets," and that their divorce is actually a tactic to protect their finances.
"While Erika publicly filed for divorce this month, on information and belief, that ‘divorce’ is simply a sham attempt to fraudulently protect Tom’s and Erika’s money from those that seek to collect on debts owed by Tom and his law firm GK," the suit states.
Edelson PC and Erika declined to comment on the case, and Tom did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.
On Dec. 14, according to The Chicago Sun-Times, Girardi was held in civil contempt, after attending a Chicago court hearing via telephone, and being unable to explain to U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin where at least $2 million went from the crash settlement of Lion Air Flight 610, which departed from Jakarta, Indonesia, in October 2018.
Tom and his law firm, Girardi & Keese (GK), are being held in civil contempt and have had their assets frozen by the judge.
According to a lawyer from Tom's law firm, Tom was “unavailable in recent weeks due to a serious illness that caused him to be hospitalized for which he sought treatment." The Los Angeles Times reported that "one lawyer said in court that Girardi 'has had issues of his mental competence' and another asked the judge to order a 'mental health exam.'"
Then, on Dec 15, Tom was hit with another lawsuit, this one from his law partner, Robert Keese.
In court documents obtained by PEOPLE, Keese and fellow business partners Robert Finnerty and Jill O’Callahan are suing Tom to dissolve their venture, known as 1126 Wilshire Partnership.
The plaintiffs allege that Tom never paid them approximately $315,000 in income from the partnership and instead kept the money for himself. They further claim that he took out loans against the property without their knowledge for his “own personal gain, benefit and use.”
Days later, a source told PEOPLE that Tom's alleged infidelity was the reason Erika filed for divorce from the attorney.
Erika said "the reason she divorced Tom is because he was cheating on her with multiple women," a source close to the couple told PEOPLE, adding that Erika claimed "she's known about his infidelity for years" but "wanted to try and save the marriage."
"When she was performing her last week on Broadway, he left her high and dry and was frolicking around town instead of supporting her and attending her shows," the insider said they were told. "She realized she would never be a priority to him and that was her breaking point."
"The split was a long time coming. The lawsuit just coincided with her decision to leave him," the source said.
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