The bitterly contested divorce between Richard and Gina Rosenkranz, who spent much of their 19-year marriage on the Kashi Ashram in Roseland, quickly became uncontested Thursday after the parties reached a last-minute financial settlement the morning it was slated for trial.
Up to 15 minutes before trial was to begin on whether the couple's marriage should be annulled, Gina Rosenkranz, 43, and her attorney, G. Russell Petersen, said they did not have a settlement agreement in hand.
Two other attorneys working on Gina Rosenkranz's behalf and a notary public hauled about nine boxes of paper files into the courtroom to prepare for trial.
Fifteen minutes later, ex-Kashi resident Richard Rosenkranz, 60, and his attorney, Noel Bobko, of Stuart, said there was an agreement in principle. Ten minutes later, Bobko entered the courtroom, announcing, "It's settled, it's settled."
After a 20-minute recess to get the papers signed and notarized, Circuit Judge Paul B. Kanarek took less than five minutes to preside over the now uncontested divorce and sign the final judgment.
The former Gina Rosenkranz, who resumed her birth name of Gina Belli as part of the divorce, was to receive a lump sum of $59,450 before the end of the day Thursday, Petersen said. The funds will pay her attorneys' fees, he said.
Belli also will receive alimony payments of $1,350 a month for 10 years and $4,200 for a 28-month period to cover dental expenses, according to attorneys for both sides.
Settlement of a suit filed by the couple's 19-year-old son, Wang Chun Rosenkranz, was not part of the divorce package and remains active, Petersen said.
The younger Rosenkranz alleges he should be receiving support from a trust created by his grandmother, Zelda Rosenkranz, who died in 1997. Bobko said Thursday the suit is unfounded, "but unfortunately may require the expenditure of a lot of funds."
The young Rosenkranz was raised on the Ashram by the community's spiritual leader, Ma Jaya Bhagavati, and her former husband, Soo Se Cho, according to Richard Rosenkranz. Notarized special powers of attorney from 1989 and 1996 indicate the couple gave their son to the care, custody and control of Bhagavati and Cho.
Richard Rosenkranz said Thursday his son brought suit at Bhagavati's direction to distract him from the divorce proceedings. Bobko said the legal papers were served on Rosenkranz during his deposition relating to the divorce. "It was a very amateurish thing to do," Bobko said.
Sita Ganga, Kashi's current media spokeswoman, said Thursday, "We are pleased that the case has been resolved. The divorce was a private matter between two people. We're pleased they were able to settle and that this is behind us now."
Belli declined to comment, but Petersen attributed the 16-month legal battle to the couple's inability to communicate following their split. "They had a difficult time because their former relationship was so intensely involved with the religious community," he said.
The strong bonds built over a long period of time broke over a short period of time, destroying their trust, he said.
Belli remains a resident at the Ashram, where she has lived most of her adult life. She is a personal assistant to Bhagavati.
In 1999, Rosenkranz left the Ashram, where he had served for many years as the community's chief media spokesman. He has said he became aware after leaving of past abusive behavior at the ranch toward his son and others.
Among current and former Kashi members present in the courtroom were three former members prepared to testify under oath in support of Rosenkranz's claims that Kashi is a destructive cult.
Others familiar with parts of the Rosenkranzes' life and experts on coercive behavior also were prepared to be present if needed, Rosenkranz said.