Ask Attorney Jennifer B.: What can we learn from celebrity divorce proceedings?
It seems like every other week we’re hearing about another celebrity divorce. Whether they’re involved in long term marriages (27 years like Hugh Jackman and Deborra-Lee Furness) or short marriages (14 months like Britney Spears and Sam Ashgari), celebrities, like average couples, sometimes find themselves in the unfortunate situation where a marriage does not work out.
Because celebrity divorces, by their nature, are, for the most part, very public, they can prove instructive to our clients. Celebrities go through many of the ups and downs and face many of the same issues as ordinary couples going through a divorce. And maybe, considering some of the outcomes that we hear about, they can provide guidance about what and what not to do in a divorce situation.
Over the summer, we heard quite a bit about the divorce between Kevin Costner and Christine Baumgartner. Reportedly, the matter is now settled. Among other issues, the couple allegedly fought over enforcement of the terms of their prenuptial agreement and Christine did not want to move out of the marital residence in the thirty days provided by the contract. Additionally, they were also reportedly fighting about the division of household items, even down to kitchenware.
Like celebrities, clients sometimes regret the deal they made in a prenuptial agreement which, by its very nature, is signed before the wedding at a time most couples cannot imagine an ugly breakup. In fact, when we negotiate a prenuptial agreement on behalf of a client, we often feel like the bearer of bad news by trying to advise them how to protect themselves when things go wrong at a time when everything for them feels so right. Unfortunately, for those who may not want to follow the terms of a prenuptial agreement when a divorce occurs, oftentimes, the court upholds these terms and requires compliance.
In the Kevin Costner divorce, his wife was forced to leave the marital home as dictated by the prenup. Seeing a celebrity having to comply with the terms of a prenup certainly makes it easier to convince a client to take the negotiation of a prenuptial agreement very seriously. As they can see, these terms do, in fact, matter.
We often have clients who are so attached to personal property, they want to spend more money fighting over items that would be cheaper to replace. It seems implausible to believe that celebrities could fight over personal property as well, but it is important for clients to realize that their feelings about wanting certain items may not be so unusual. More importantly, seeing celebrities dispute items of personal property as reported in the media may make some clients reconsider their position and realize that fighting over these items may just not be worth it.
As part of a divorce, and sometimes, when divorce is not even involved, people can relate to celebrities going through custody battles. There were recent reports about a custody battle brewing between Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner, which is now apparently resolved. Their custody issues were international, but involved a common dispute that couples often face — where will their children live. Even when parties live relatively close and can easily enjoy equal time with their children, there are often issues that have one parent arguing that they should have primary custody of the children. In some more drastic situations, it’s argued that the other party should be limited to simply visitation with the children or even have no time at all with the kids.
Seeing celebrities battle custody of their children on a very public stage may deter our clients from wanting to engage in a similar type of battle, albeit not in the media, but nonetheless, one that may involve others outside of the family unit (as witnesses) and frequently, the children themselves. On the other hand, those who are already engaged in custody litigation may feel some solace in knowing that even celebrities can have differences when it comes to the custody of their children.
For those in the midst of divorce or contemplating divorce and for those of us representing them, reports about celebrity divorces can be instructive, but more importantly, they remind us that celebrities are simply people too. They face issues just like the rest of us but often in a much more public way.
Importantly, while the public may hear about celebrity divorces for a short period of time, oftentimes, we then hear that a resolution is reached and people are able to move on with their lives. This is probably the most useful example to our clients that we can use as practitioners – although parties to a divorce have differences of opinions for certain, at the end of the day, resolution and the ability to move on is best for all of those involved.
With more than 25 years of experience in the industry, Jennifer Brandt’s practice includes all aspects of family law including divorce, custody, support, alimony, adoption, and guardianship matters in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey. In addition to family law litigation, she also negotiates prenuptial, post-nuptial and cohabitation agreements on behalf of clients. In addition to her busy practice, she’s a well-known legal commentator on national news networks including CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, ABC News, Court TV and local and regional television and radio.
If you have a family law issue or would like me to speak about legal issues, you can connect with Ms. Brandt at www.cozen.com.