LATEST: Judge urges Handelsman family to reach deal on splitting fortune

July 20, 2018
Lucille (left) and Burt Handelsman. (Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post)

Editor’s note: Due to an error in the court transcript, a comment regarding estrangements within the Handelsman family was incorrectly attributed in an earlier version of this story. The comment was made by Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Scott Suskauer. The error has been corrected.

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Testimony in the divorce trial of Palm Beach power couple Burt and Lucille Handelsman came to an end Friday with an appeal from the presiding judge asking the feuding family to reach an agreement on an equitable distribution of their estimated $550 million real estate empire.

Burt and Lucille, 90 and 89 years old respectively, were married for 67 years before Judge Scott Suskauer granted Lucille’s petition for a divorce in February.

The trial continued into late March, then was suspended for more than three months before resuming Tuesday in Palm Beach Gardens.

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The case also involves the Handelsman’s three grown children, who each are siding with their mother.

Suskauer has been listening to real-estate experts and forensic accountants in an effort to determine how to divide the family fortune and made one final attempt Friday afternoon to get the warring sides to drop their disdain and come to an agreement.

Judge Scott Suskauer presides over a hearing in the Handelsman divorce trial Tuesday, June 6, 2017. Burt and Lucille, known as Lovey, Handelsman were married for nearly 70 years when they decided they wanted a divorce. Burt Handelsman, the owner of much of the land on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach and Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach, has turned his marital discord into a court battle royale, aimed at keeping his soon-to-be-ex and their children from getting his estimated $100 million-plus in holdings. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post) Photo: Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post

Speaking to Burt, Suskauer said if an accord wasn’t reached, appeals could mean he and the family will be spending much of the next couple of years in court. 

According to a court transcript, Suskauer followed by saying that “if there’s any chance, any chance that’s out there for you guys to reach a common ground to put an end to this and move on with your lives and not end this on this note. ... ”

Suskauer has given attorneys on both sides until Aug. 31 to file closing written arguments with the court.

Whether any settlement can be reached in the next month is uncertain.

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Burt has referred to his children in court documents as “enemies,” and the siblings have made it clear they no longer want to be in business with their father.

The Handelsmans have mainly kept their distance during proceedings this week.

Suskauer said watching the Handlesman family split apart has been “an incredibly sad experience.”

“This courtroom is probably the only time this nuclear family gets together as an entire entity, right?” Suskauer said. “Because I’m assuming it’s no longer bar mitzvahs or weddings to go to as a family unit ... How sad that is.”