Celebrity Divorces

All over yesterday’s news, including the Dallas Morning New, were reports that Deion Sanders won his custody trial.  As reported, Deion received sole custody of his two sons with his wife, Pilar.  The parties also were awarded shared custody of their daughter.  In English, Deion will make all educational, health and extracurricular decisions for his two sons, ages 11 and 13, and the parties will share that responsibility for their 9-year-old daughter

As these things tend to be, this was a nasty custody fight, with Pilar making allegations of abuse and Deion alleging that this was all about the money.

For a New Jersey divorce attorney, what is also interesting about this case is that it was decided by a jury of 7 women and 5 men.  The concept of a jury deciding custody, or for that matter, any family law issue other than perhaps (but not always) a marital tort, is completely foreign in New Jersey and most jurisdictions.  In fact, other than perhaps Georgia, I am unaware of any other jurisdiction where there are jury trials for custody.  New York used to have jury trials to decide a contested divorce – i.e. whether the fault cause of action had been proven.  I suspect that this too is largely a thing of the past since no-fault divorce was recently enacted in New York, as previously noted on this blog.

In New Jersey, typically custody decisions take weeks if not months to get a decision from a judge.  In the Sanders case, the jury deliberated for less than two hours.  In New Jersey, the decision is determined less by the he said/she said, mud slinging, and more upon the testimony of one or more custody experts.  Moreover, as noted in my blog post last week entitled Custody – Back to Basics, the decision must consider the 14 factors set forth in the custody statute.Continue Reading Deion Sanders Wins Custody Super Bowl

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. Continue Reading When it Comes to Divorce, Don't Believe Everything You Read or Hear

Last week news broke the Jon and Kate Gossellin, stars of the Lifetime television program “Jon and Kate Plus Eight,” were divorced in Pennsylvania. Judge Arthur Tilson entered an Order making it official.  To read previous blog entries on this celebrity divorce click here.

While many news articles reported that the couple used an arbitrator, few actually differentiated or explained the roll of the arbitrator. Sometimes divorcing couples use an arbitrator to decide issues in a divorce rather than go to the Court. While in New Jersey only a Judge can enter an Order actually divorcing a couple – hence dissolving the marriage, an arbitrator can decide almost any other issue, including alimony, child support, equitable distribution, college expenses, graduate school costs, medical expenses, counsel fees and tax-related issues. (The only caveat is that both parties must agree that the arbitrator has the authority to decide the issue.)

In NJ when it comes to custody and parenting time arbitration, there are specific requirements for this process that our Supreme Court has set forth in the Fawzy v. Fawzy matter. To read prior blog entries on this case and arbitration, click here or here.Continue Reading Jon & Kate – Arbitrate!

I have blogged several times about the celebrity divorces that have been in the news, from John & Kate, to Christie Brinkley, to Stephanie Seymour, to Jim Nantz, to the McCourts who own the LA Dodgers and others.

Every day for the last few weeks, Tiger Woods has been front page news regarding what he first called "indiscretions" and now calls "infidelity."  We have heard in the news about potential sweeteners to his prenuptial agreement if his wife stays, to rumors that she will leave him and so on .  Obviously, since the information from Tiger and his wife is limited, people are left to speculate and gossip.

 As a New Jersey Divorce Lawyer, the best that I can offer is to give some comments on how New Jersey divorce and family law would apply to the facts (hypothetical, speculation or true facts that have been reported). 

In New Jersey, marital fault is largely irrelevant except in limited circumstances.  Though not particularly necessary anymore since we have no fault (irreconcilable differences) divorce, the fault ground of adultery can still be plead as a divorce cause of action.  That said, receiving a divorce based on adultery does not get you anything more financially.Continue Reading On Tiger, “Indiscretions,” “Infidelities” And So On – All of the Gossip Gives Rise to a Great Law School Exam Question

Since they have been in the news a lot lately, I have bloged a lot recently on celebrity divorces, be it John & Kate, Stephanie Seymour or Jim Nantz.  That is why the article from Billy Witz that recently appeared in the New York Times about the divorce of Frank McCourt and Jamie McCourt, the owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers got my attention.

Both parties claim to own the team – though Frank claims to be the sole owner.  Both worked for the team until recently, when Jamie was fired.  As a sign of the war to come, Jamie’s lawyers budgeted her legal fees for this matter to be $2 million.  Per the article, the central issue is as follows:

"The key legal issue is whether the Dodgers are considered the McCourts’ community property. Under California law, a couple’s assets are split 50-50 unless a written agreement states otherwise. Shortly after buying the Dodgers, the McCourts put the team in Frank’s name and all their property in Jamie’s name to protect the homes from potential creditors. One of her lawyers, Michael Kump, said they would challenge the validity of the postnuptial agreement.

If the agreement is not valid, Fisher said, the McCourts would probably be forced to sell, as John Moores did with the San Diego Padres when he divorced."