High-profile attorney Michael Avenatti is facing a looming deadline to pay an estimated $1.5 million in spousal and child support back payments to his estranged wife as part of an increasingly contentious divorce dispute, according to court records.
Estranged wife Lisa Storie took the forceful step this week of serving a judgment debtor’s notice, after Avenatti — according to her claim — violated a temporary settlement agreement she reached with him less than a month ago.
If Avenatti fails to appear at a hearing in response to a judgment debtor’s notice, he could face severe consequences, including the issuance by a judge of a bench warrant for his arrest.
That hearing is currently scheduled for Dec. 28, according to Storie. Court records indicate that the divorce proceedings have been unfolding for more than a year.
Avenatti is a professional race car driver and ubiquitous cable news presence, who is representing adult film actress Stormy Daniels in at least two lawsuits involving President Donald Trump.
He has appeared frequently on television news programs, tangled with the president on social media and briefly flirted publicly with the prospect of running for president himself in 2020.
Avenatti’s visibility on the national stage has grown substantially in the past year. Yet in roughly the same time frame, his personal and professional legal disputes seem to have been steadily dragging him towards a significant financial reckoning.
In a series of interviews with ABC News this week, Storie has reiterated allegations she has made in court documents.
In separate communications with ABC News, largely via text messages, Avenatti has vehemently, if broadly, refuted the majority of these claims.
Avenatti declined an ABC News request for any available records or documentation to support his contentions.
Avenatti has, in the past, filed court documents challenging attempts by Storie’s attorneys to access his financial records and tax returns, describing the requests in filings as “unduly burdensome” and “vague.”
Storie said she directed her attorneys to take the aggressive legal action against Avenatti after months of fruitless efforts to settle and finalize the divorce.
“It has been extremely difficult, as Michael has not participated in this divorce for a year,” Storie said in a series of interviews in which she agreed only to address questions about the legal proceedings.
“He was ordered by a judge in April to provide bank records and tax returns, which were never received,” she said.
Indeed, at least twice in the past year, most recently in October, a court has ordered him to turn over the financial documents, according to court records.
After Avenatti failed to meet a June deadline to produce the financial records, the judge admonished him in absentia in a July 16 hearing at which Avenatti did not appear.
“[T]he court notes that it is not appropriate to turn a blind eye that none of the requests have been complied with by the petitioner,” the judge said, according to minutes of the hearing recorded by a court reporter.
“There are no tax returns, bank statements, no income and expense declarations, no preliminary declaration of disclosure and no financial documents. The petitioner was ordered to produce the documents by 6/22/18.”
Storie said that a previously scheduled judgment debtor’s notice hearing earlier this month was cancelled because the estranged couple had reached an eleventh-hour temporary agreement, signed on Nov. 30.
The agreement, reviewed by ABC News, stipulates that Avenatti would sign over community property to Storie — including artwork and high-priced watches – as well as paying her two installments of $40,000 each, the first of which Storie said was due by December 3.
Storie said this week that Avenatti already has violated the temporary agreement the two reached less than two weeks ago.
In a statement to ABC News, Storie said that the first $40,000 has not been received and that, as a result, she directed her attorneys this weekend to file the judgment debtor’s notice.
“The main thrust of the agreement was to establish support payments while we worked towards discussing a settlement,” Storie said in the statement.
“The agreement has since been breached, as no support payment has been received.”
Avenatti this week declined to respond to each of Storie’s allegations but provided ABC News with a broader statement defending himself and challenging some of the claims Storie has made in court records and in interviews with ABC News.
“People claim all kinds of things in divorce proceedings, many of which are completely false,” Avenatti’s statement begins. “I do not owe any money for support or otherwise in my divorce…Not one penny. Lisa has received far more money and support than 99.9 percent of ex-wives in America, especially seeing as this was not a lengthy marriage.”
The couple were married in January 2011 and separated in October of last year, court records show.
In his statement, Avenatti went on to say that “I have actively participated in the divorce and any claim to the contrary is nonsense.”
“I desperately want the divorce over.”