Hopper Divorce Pits Older Kids Against 7-year-old Daughter

Judge: Dennis Hopper can't exclude 7-year-old daughter from insurance policy.

May 12, 2010, 12:28 PM

May 14, 2010— -- A judge denied Dennis Hopper's motion to exclude his 7-year-old daughter, Galen, from his life insurance policy and make his three adult children sole beneficiaries of $750,000.

The ruling made Wednesday in a Los Angeles courtroom means that Galen Hopper will be entitled to part of the proceeds from Hopper's $1 million policy, along with Hopper's three older children, Marin, Ruthanna and Henry. The remaining $250,000 will go to Galen's mother, Hopper's estranged wife, Victoria Duffy-Hopper, 42, as part of their premarital agreement.

"We were pleased with the result effectively blocking the motion," Duffy-Hopper's lawyer, Mirka Royston, told ABCNews.com. "We feel the court's ruling protects the best interest of the child."

The motion was the latest salvo in the Hoppers' contentious divorce that continues to wend its way through courts, even as Dennis Hopper's health diminishes. The divorce has pitted Duffy-Hopper, wife No. 5, and Galen against Hopper's adult children, whom Duffy-Hopper has accused of masterminding the split.

"Victoria's prime objective is to make sure she can support her child," Royston said. "The adult children are taking control of this case and attempting to limit any funds that go to Victoria or Galen, and it really is quite sad. It's the stuff that movies are made of."

Hopper, 73, who has been battling advanced prostate cancer and is now terminally ill, according to his lawyer, did not attend Wednesday's hearing.

Hopper's lawyer, Joe Mannis, did not respond to requests for comment from ABCNews.com.

"These are his last days," Royston said referring to Hopper. "You would think he would be concentrating on living out his days to the fullest. Instead, the adult children are clamoring to secure as much money for themselves as possible."

Less than three months after Hopper filed for divorce on Jan. 14, he filed a motion to change the beneficiary of his life insurance policy. In previous court documents, Hopper justified the change by claiming that his daughter Galen would be well provided for by his estate.

Victoria Duffy-Hopper Willing to Settle

It appears the judge did not buy his argument.

"The court was concerned about providing security for child support, and the judge commented on that when making her ruling," Royston said.

In her declaration responding to Hopper's motion, Duffy-Hopper expressed worry that she would not be able to support Galen without the additional money from the life insurance policy.

"I am concerned that I will not be able to provide for our minor daughter in the event [Hopper] passes away prior to a resolution of this case," she said.

"As a child of a celebrity, a child with paternal genetic history of addiction, and most importantly, as a child who will have lost her father, I feel that she has a heightened need, far more than the average child, for the security of a predictable home environment ..." Duffy-Hopper said in her declaration.

On April 5, the judge ordered Hopper to pay $12,000 a month in child and spousal support, retroactive to March 1, and to continue giving Duffy-Hopper a place to live on his property.

But Duffy-Hopper claimed in court documents filed since then that she has received only one month of support, and that Hopper is already in arrears.

In her response to Hopper's motion, Duffy-Hopper countered that Galen should be made sole beneficiary of the $750,000 death benefit as security for child support. According to her documents, the policy was originally purchased in 1996 for that purpose after a court ordered it to secure then young son Henry's upbringing.

Henry's mother and Hopper's fourth wife, Katherine LaNasa, was the sole beneficiary of $750,000, and Duffy-Hopper, who had just married Hopper, was the sole beneficiary of the remaining $250,000.

After Henry, now 19, became an adult, the balance of the policy reverted to Hopper's estimated $30 million estate, which Hopper said in previous filings he has already set up for Galen and his three other adult children to receive a "substantial portion."

Royston expects this issue will probably come up again at trial. But Duffy-Hopper hopes to settle the case before then.

"We've been trying to settle the case," Royston said. "Victoria is attempting settlement. Basically the ball is in their court."

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