The cover of yesterday’s New York Post read "Ahhhnold: I Wont Pay A Dime." That was curious so I next went to the story written by Andy Soltis and the headline was "Arnold Schwartzeneggar Rejects Maria Shriver’s bid for spousal support. As if the cover and headline were not bad enough, the story obnoxiously starts "First, he cheated on her. Now he’s trying to cheat her out of tens of millions of dollars." I then set out on line to see what other newspapers or news sources were saying about this, and while less outrageous, they were equally misleading. How do I know they were misleading? I found the actual pleading on-line,
In California, it seems, that there is a mandatory 3 page form Response to a Divorce Petition which I would surmise is a similar form. The form has blanks to fill and and boxes to check about issues in dispute. So I looked at the form to see if Arnold said he wouldn’t pay a dime or rejected Maria’s bid for support. I found the "smoking gun". In the box that said "Spousal Support Payable to" the boxes for both Petitioner and Respondent were left empty. Scandalous!?! As to counsel fees, because some stories had him refusing to pay them to, he checked of the box suggesting each pay their own. Scoundrel!?!
My guess that this is standard pleading practice and no big deal. In New Jersey, we don’t have fill in the blank and check the box forms but our pleading practice is reasonably similar for most cases. The first pleading of the higher wage earner never usually asks that she/he be ordered to pay alimony and in response to their spouse’s first pleading, they always ask that it be dismissed. Are they saying that they are refusing to pay support? No. It is just standard pleading practice and no big deal.
Now getting back to Arnold, who, if you look at the full link to the story (above), appears to be deemed to be the "worm-inator", would he really have to pay spousal support. I can’t speak to California, but in many cases where there are extraordinary net worths that both parties will have once the divorce is over, they may not have a need for alimony. Moreover, to the extent that she may have separate Kennedy assets or income from trusts or otherwise, that could suggest that there is no need. Moreover, if Arnold is not currently working and has no earned income, that too could be a factor.
Let’s look a little closer to home. So often, we hear clients, or for that matter, saying what they heard about someone else’s divorce. How often have I heard – "she got sole custody"? Often. Is it likely true? No. How often have I heard that he has to pay for everything plus X in child support and Y in alimony? Often. Is it likely true – I doubt it. And when it comes to the reason for the divorce, at best, you are only hearing one side of the story. Even if some or all of these things are true, don’t assume that the same thing will happen in your divorce case. Now two marriages are exactly the same. The income pictures and asset structures are sure to be different. Custodial issues are likely different too. As a result, relying on what you think happened to someone else as a barometer regarding what might happen to you is unreliable. You need to work with your attorney to understand what could happen when the law is applied to the facts of your case.
Until then, other than this blog, don’t believe everything you read.
Eric Solotoff is the editor of the New Jersey Family Legal Blog and the Co-Chair of the Family Law Practice Group of Fox Rothschild LLP. Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Lawyer and a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Attorneys, Eric practices in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland, New Jersey office though he practices throughout New Jersey. You can reach Eric at (973)994-7501, or firstname.lastname@example.org.