Celebrities Divorce before Decade
Celebrity Divorce: Hollywood Stars Pay More to Ex after 10 years of Marriage
When Comedian Chris Rock filed for divorce in November 2006, the Internet was ablaze with claims that he was trying to avoid paying extra alimony — because he’d been married less than ten years. Tom Cruise filed for divorce from Nicole Kidman just before that milestone. Brendan and Afton Fraser called it quits in December after nine years of marriage, as did Ed Asner and Cindy Gilmore.
So why the hurry? Are they rushing to file just to save some money? California’s divorce laws don’t further the notion. “This kind of legal maneuvering will not be successful in divorce court,” said Goldie Schon, a celebrity divorce attorney with Nachshin and Weston LLP in Los Angeles, California. She represented Spice Girl Melanie Brown and Boxing Champion Oscar De La Hoya in their respective divorces.
“While I am sure there are celebrities that have tried to divorce their spouses right before the ten years with the hope that they will not be bound to pay spousal support until one of them dies or the payee spouse gets remarried, this type of game playing usually does not work with the family law court system,” Schon said.
“In California, courts consider marriages of more than 10 years long-term marriages. At the end of long-term marriages, spouses can have the right to get spousal support for a longer period of time. Usually, the court allows spouses whose marriages have been longer than 10 years to get spousal support for the rest of his or her life, or until remarriage,” Schon said.
“For the spouses whose marriages lasted less than ten years, their support continues on for the number of years that is equal to half of the length of marriage. For example, if the divorcing couple had been married eight years, then spousal support would end four years after the divorce. This is not like a marital egg timer. When ten years are up, the landscape of the divorce won’t suddenly change. Just because a celebrity, or anyone in California, files for divorce before the ten-year mark, does not mean that the marriage will not be considered long-term,” Schon said.
“The ten-year mark is not viewed by the courts as a strict line in the sand,” Schon said. “Therefore, if a person has been married for nine years, it too could be considered a marriage of long duration. The Court could treat a marriage of nine years the same way they treat a marriage of ten years or more. It is a gray area and is subjective to the facts of the each case.”
“The amount of time the couple, celebrity or not, has been married has little effect on the actual amount of spousal support ordered,” Schon said. “The amount of spousal support is based upon many factors, one of the prevalent factors is income from all sources for both parties,” Schon said.
LONGER MARRIAGES MAY MEAN MORE OPTIONS
A marriage that lasts ten years or more has different support guidelines attached to it, said Jerry Cohen, CPA, a divorce financial analyst in California. He said that, in his business, there are a variety of factors that come into play when determining spousal support, but that the length of marriage becomes a factor.
“Most commonly, the length of support is at issue when the marriage is longer or shorter than ten years,” he said. “Beyond that, other factors that might come into play would revolve around the structure of the family unit”, Cohen said. “For example, if the couple has children, support for the custodial parent will be a big factor in the financial divisions. Or is one parent has been staying home to manage the family, and has not been able to keep current in his or her career,” he said, “the other spouse might provide more support for educational opportunities to help get back in the work force. We may find some creative ways that one party whose career is further ahead could help the other spouse.”
“With marriages that last longer than ten years,” Cohen said, “the issues are less about the length of support, and more about the facts and circumstances surrounding the amount of support being offered. If there are medical issues for one spouse or some other instability in his or her life, then the support will probably reflect that.”
“More of our focus, is looking at, from a financial planning perspective, what’s best for both parties, for the families?” Cohen said.
“How can we best manage this so that people get the best financial settlement that we can?”
PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENTS MAKE THEIR OWN RULES
“However, if the support guidelines were pre-determined by a prenuptial agreement, then all bets are off”, said Jared Laskin, a California attorney who specializes in prenuptial agreements, cohabitation agreements, and palimony agreements. He said he rarely includes time differentiations for support agreements. “I don’t think the ten-year thing has a lot of relevancy because with a prenup you are negotiating your own rules,” Laskin said.
“The prenuptial agreement usually stipulate whether there will be spousal support at all,” he said, “so the time element does not become a factor. The couple could waive spousal support altogether. Or the couple may include requirements that the way property will be divided will change depending on the kinds of increases in value it has as the marriage goes on.”
“Because just about anything can go into a prenup,” Laskin said, “it all depends on the deal the couple negotiates. Many people agree to many things. You are limited only by your imagination.”
About the author: Michele Bush Kimball has a Ph.D. in mass communication with a specialization in media law. She has spent almost 15 years in the field of journalism, and she teaches at American University in Washington, D.C. She recently won a national research award for her work.