What is it about divorce that frightens people?

Maria Shriver does not have to worry that a divorce will bankrupt her. She is probably not concerned about who will get custody of her children. She knows that she is capable of running her own successful career. Her children are no longer babies who need constant supervision.

She must have known since January when the mother of Arnold’s “other” child retired (read: took a handsome pay-off to disappear with her son) that he had been unfaithful. Not once, but in a huge ongoing household staff, Henry VIII, sort of way. No matter how big the Brentwood mansion is or how many nights Arnold stayed in Sacramento, Maria must have known for years that her husband was involved with someone else.

Yet, when they announced their separations and transitions over the past few months, neither Maria nor Arnold ever publicly used the word “divorce.” Whatever marriage they have apparently frightens them less than a divorce.
Arnold rose to fame as a body-builder, yet released films in which he pretends to (or actually does) smoke pot. Maria, who grew up as a member of the most famous multi-generational family of democrats, campaigned for her Republican husband. Maria, the investigative journalist, seemingly did not notice that someone on her staff had a kid who looked just like her own kids. Arnold, the family values man, apparently ignored one of his own children in his own home.

So much image over substance can make you dizzy.

The image of a happily married governor and first lady working together to raise their brood of children has become gossamer thin with the latest round of revelations. What lessons are they teaching their children, and their fans, about values and honesty and commitment? Would a divorce, even at its worst – with a rabid media eager to show as much dirty laundry as it could find – be worse than this?

Probably not. As complex as de-constructing their marriage might be, it is probably simpler than the toll of keeping this veil in place indefinitely. I can only imagine that there will be a huge sense of relief for both Maria and Arnold (and eventually their kids) when all of the dust of this mess has settled. Letting the whole truth out is the first painful step towards what will eventually be a happier and healthier future for all concerned.

What We Love: Maria has had to protect secrets that were not even hers for as long as she has known about Arnold’s affairs. She can now un-shoulder that burden and begin to live her own life.

Why Do the Mounting Allegations Against IMF Chief Remind us of Arnold and Maria?

 (c) wikipediaItem regarding IMF chief:

Dominique Strauss-Kahn‘s reputation with women earned him the nickname “the great seducer,” and not even an affair with a subordinate could knock the International Monetary Fund leader off a political path pointed in the direction of the French presidency. All that changed with charges that he sexually assaulted a maid in his hotel room, a case that generated shock and revulsion, especially in his home country.

(Quoted from: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110515/ap_on_re_us/imf_head_assault)

 (c) wikipedia

 Item regarding Arnold Schwarzenegger:

A WOMAN accused of shattering Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 25-year marriage has claimed she was merely one of many mistresses. . .Gigi Goyette says: “I don’t think I had anything to do with the break-up of his marriage. There were so many other women. About 13 have come out of the woodwork.” . . .There have been several stories of Schwarzenegger’s rumoured infidelities over the years – and time and time again Maria denounced them as “dirty politics”.. . . But after walking out on the 63-year-old Predator star last month and fleeing to a Beverly Hills hotel, it seems there’s only so much she could take. (Quoted from: http://www.mirror.co.uk/celebs/news/2011/05/14/arnold-schwarzenegger-mistress-denies-causing-marriage-break-up-115875-23128982/)

It seems that frequently people in positions of power and influence are used to getting away with behaviors that would be unacceptable to the rest of us, but are allowed to do so as an offset to the power they wield in the rest of their lives.  Sometimes this happens on a smaller scale in our own homes and families.

Whether you live in a no-fault state or one of the states where the court requires proof of the causes of the breakdown of a marriage; serial infidelity can and should be relevant to the ultimate distribution of assets in a case.  A spouse who has managed to maintain extra marital relationships has diverted resources from the marriage for his or her own uses.

Judges often notice when one spouse acquires an enormous debt without the other spouse’s knowledge or consent.  Frequently orders reflect this or other subversive behaviors resulting in a diminished estate for the divorcing partners.  Similarly an affair – or several affairs – may tend to show that one spouse has already used up more than his or her fair share of the assets.

WHAT WE LOVE:  No matter what you have ignored or accepted in the past, once the truth is out you can move on and start over.

How Did Maria and Arnold Stay Together So Long?

While we are initially shocked by the announcement Monday night that Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger have been separate for a few months; “to work on their relationship,” the separation might not be what surprises us.

Reports in TMZ.com allege that Maria had been trying to get to this point for at least the past two years. http://www.tmz.com/2011/05/10/maria-shriver-arnold-schwarzenegger-divorce-contemplating-infidelity-conflicted-split-hotel/  But each of her parents died, making it more difficult for her to take this big step.  Friends site issues such as Arnold’s enormous ego, infidelities, and womanizing allegations.

Really??  All those things we vaguely thought we knew/remembered about him are true? And she has spent 25 years married to him, raising 4 children?  But Maria’s mother was John Kennedy’s brother and Robert Kennedy’s brother.  Her father was a candidate for VP of the United States.  She is considered one of the last of the American Royalty.

Why would she, of all people, have to stay in a marriage which clearly was not working for her?


And if a daughter of the Kennedy clan – a star journalist in her own right – has stayed married to a man who does not make their marriage his highest priority, what hope do we mere mortals have for our own marriages? Are we all doomed to remain in unhappy marriages rather than face the judgments and accusations that accompany a change?

Maria posted a video on her website two weeks ago, asking her followers to help her process the idea of transitions, and what she should become next.  Even with all of the resources available to her, this strong and beautiful woman is clearly a lost soul at a moment of crisis.

As difficult as it must have been to be married to him for all of these years: to support his candidacy and tenure as Governor of California after she asked him not to run, to stand by his side when sexual allegations arise, the decision to separate – and then to announce the separation to the world – was apparently even more difficult.


And, finally, this brave woman overcame her fears and concerns and did the thing she dreaded most.  Reports say her children, ranging in age from 14 to 21, encouraged her to take this step, and that her youngest child will be living with her away from that family mansion.

She will be fine.  She has already done the hardest part, and survived.  If she sticks with her resolve and lets herself become the woman she intends to be, this will be the best thing that has happened to her in a very long time. We are all rooting for her.

 What we love:  It is never too late to elect your own happiness over the institution of marriage.

Olivia Wilde is confirming my suspicions

Did you read my blog entry on March 21, 2011 entitled “Did Olivia Wilde have a starter marriage?” (In case you missed it, check out:  http://oberstlaw.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/did-olivia-wilde-have-a-%E2%80%9Cstarter-marriage%E2%80%9D/)

0426-olivia-wilde-lagence-dress_li[1]This week Olivia Wilde appears on the cover of June’s Glamour magazine with a photo shoot and interview. The interview discusses her upcoming 7 movies in the next 2 years, including 2 movies this summer (Cowboys & Aliens and The Change-Up)She also talks about her intellectual and supportive parents, their healthy marriage and their ongoing support of her decisions. And, of course, she talks about her divorce from Italian prince and filmmaker Tao Ruspoli.  Here is an excerpt:

 “The mark of a good marriage is partnership and continuing to feel inspired by your spouse. I had that with Tao. But the end is not necessarily the tragedy. Staying in a relationship that is no longer working is the tragedy. Living unhappily — that’s the tragedy.”

It’s similar to what I always say. Divorce is definitely a sad thing; but staying in a bad marriage is infinitely more sad.  Wilde is getting out while she and her husband still have mutual respect for each other. It is easier to remain friends with someone who has never really hurt you.  If you are going to get a divorce someday, by all means, do it before you hate each other.

It is easier to work out the details of a divorce – separating belongings and assets, explaining to friends and family, planning for each person’s future – with someone you can still tolerate.  When a couple divorces with mutual respect and compassion, they each want what is best for the other, within reason.  Waiting until this sense of gentleness and consideration are already gone frequently results in bitter and protracted divorces.

Even if a marriage has continued past the point of calmness and mutual respect it is still possible to put all of that aside and let the divorce process be one of consideration and compassion.

What We Love:  Married at 18 and divorced by 27, Wilde understands that a happy divorce is better than an unhappy marriage.  We wish her a lifetime of happiness (married or not).


Charlie Sheen in March 2009
Image via Wikipedia

Charlie Sheen and Brooke Mueller are officially divorced, having filed their papers Monday morning in theLos Angelescourthouse.  They initially separated in December 2009 after a highly publicized Christmas Day fight.   The terms of the divorce agreement were complicated throughout the process.  Sheen refused to pay alimony. There was a question of who would have custody of their two year old twin sons Bob and Max while Sheen is on his world tour and Mueller was checked into rehab. 

Even Sheen’s ex-wife Denise Richards was part of the discussions. Richards has primary physical custody of her young daughters with Sheen, Sam and Lola. So she understands the desire of children to have stability in their lives.   Seeing Charlie off on his “Violent Torpedo of Truth Tour” and Mueller in a drug and alcohol rehab facility prompted Richards to offer to take care of the boys herself when there appeared to be no good options available.

Did Richards see herself as a sort of guardian angel for Bob and Max?

Mueller is now out of rehab with a voluntary agreement, a finalized divorce decree and primary physical custody of the boys.  The agreement probably requires her to undergo periodic drug testing.

According to reports, Sheen will not be paying alimony.  Mueller will receive a lump sump payout of $757,698.70, plus $1 million as her share of the marital home. 

The boys, however, are entitled to child support from their father commensurate with their father’s earning capacity.  Sheen will be paying $55,000 per month to Mueller as child support.

Mueller has insisted on specific language in the agreement that references Denise Richards, similar to a “Most Favored Nation” agreement, in which “under no circumstances shall the child support paid by Charlie for Bob and Max be less than the child support paid by Charlie to Denise Richards for [daughters] Sam and Lola.”

In most states, Child Support orders are modifiable for as long as the children are under the age of majority, if the moving party can prove a significant change in circumstances.  It is usually a burden upon the custodial parent to try to determine how much the ex-spouse is making and whether that means the kids deserve more money.  This structure makes it difficult for a single parent with limited funds to always get the right amount of child support.

Under the Sheen/Mueller agreement, the children have a third party also looking out for them.  This agreement means that, if Denise Richards seeks an increase in child support for her daughters, she will automatically be seeking an identical increase for Bob and Max, effectively making her their guardian angel, after all.

What We Love:  Even if Mueller is not always able to know how much money her sons should be receiving from their father, this agreement protects them beyond their own mother’s ability to prove Sheen’s financial circumstances.

What are the Differences Between LeAnn Rimes and Eddie Cibrian’s Divorces?

Cover of "Northern Lights"
Cover of Northern Lights

LeAnn Rimes and Eddie Cibrian married in a private California home this week, in a surprise wedding.  They had invited guests to an engagement party and turned it into a small wedding.

After the much-publicized beginning of their courtship, it is understandable that the couple would avoid fanfare for this wedding.  Both the bride and groom were married to other people when they first met as co-stars on the Lifetime Movie “Northern Lights.” 

No one wants to be on the receiving end of an affair. However, some times are worse than others; like when there are children involved. 

LeAnn Rimes has had worldwide success and fame since her debut studio albumBlue” was released when she was 13 years old in 1996. Since then, she has released 14 more studio albums in 14 years.  She has also established careers in movies and television.  In 2000 she filed lawsuits against her father and record label to win back money the two had allegedly been stealing from her in excess of $7 Million.

When she and Cibrian met in 2009, she claims that her own marriage to dancer Dean Sheremet, was already unhappy.  She just did not know how to end it.  One good idea for ending relationships is just to say, “This is not working for me. Let’s take a break.”  Most people respond better to that than to finding out about an affair. 

Meanwhile, when Eddie Cibrian met LeAnn, he was married with two children.  His divorce was messier and costlier, with his ex-wife Brandi Glanville speaking out in the media.  Not only does this make the transition more difficult for Glanville, Cibrian and Rimes, but the people who are always the most damaged by divorce – the minor children – do not have any built-in coping mechanisms for a nasty fight between their parents.

Recent reports have indicated that Rimes and Cibrian are reaching out to Cibrian’s young children, attending birthday parties and being in the kids’ lives. This is great and we wish all of them the best for the future despite whatever mess was made in the past.

Couples who separate BEFORE they begin an affair with someone else are less likely to suffer needlessly in their divorces.  Whether or not there are children in one marriage, there may still be children in the other marriage.

WHAT WE LOVE:  Rimes & Cibrian working to repair whatever damage they may have done to Cibrian’s relationship with his children.  It is never too late to make amends.

Why Can Roseanne Barr Re-Open Her Custody Arrangements?

Roseanne Barr’s third divorce was finalized in 2002. She and her former bodyguard Ben Thomas reached an agreement at that time which was intended to be completely confidential and remain sealed. 

Since then Thomas disclosed parts of the agreement by making it and the discussions around it public.  In so doing, he breached the agreement itself and also upset the delicate balance which had been the couple’s custody arrangement regarding their 15 year old son, Buck.

Under the exisitng agreement, Roseanne was to pay for Thomas and his new wife to fly to Hawaii for 10 days each month, all expenses paid, to be with Buck.  By breaching the intent of the agreement – privacy – and upsetting the primary payer in the arrangement – Roseanne Barr – Thomas probably destroyed what could have been a great deal for himself, his wife and his son.

Under common rules of contract construction, once a party breaches one aspect of a contract (here, the privacy component), the other party is no longer bound by all aspects of the agreement. The cpourts do not enforce contracts so that one party must comply while the other does whatever he or she wants.

Under most states’ family laws, the questions surrounding a minor child – such as custody, visitation and child support – continue to be issues a court can re-open, even after the rest of the case is closed.  So long as a child has not reached the age of majority, a court can continue to become involved and evaluate the current set of circumstances surrounding the minor child’s life.

A court needs to balance whether at 15 years old, Buck’s access to his father should be his father’s responsibility, his mother’s responsibility or both.  The court must also take into account both Roseanne Barr’s right to privacy in her familial dealings and Ben Thomas’ right to air whatever greivance he feels towards his ex-wife.

While it may seem counter-intuitive for a judge to delve into this agreement 9 years after the couple divorced, it is in the child’s best interest that a court be involved.

WHAT WE LOVE:  While we cannot predict the outcome of this latest battle, we know that a judge will be looking at the best interests of the child, no matter what motivates the kid’s parents.

How Does Eva Longoria’s Newest Press Circuit Help?


Post divorce Eva Longoria is appearing on TV talk shows with David Letterman, Piers Morgan and Rachael Ray as well as in magazines like Allure discussing her emotional difficulties and challenges during and since her divorce from Tony Parker. 

Is this celebrity gamesmanship, in which she gives herself more emotional damage by re-living the mess? Is she trying to gain public sympathy and thereby somehow harm Parker’s public image? Does sad play better than well-adjusted in TV interviews? 

Probably not.

In interview after interview Longoria talks about the difficulty she had in going through her divorce, how much the marriage meant to her and the fact that she is uncomfortable dating.  Her life has been turned upside-down, not having Lakers games to attend on a regular basis and needing to re-construct a new life for herself.

All of these are very real challenges that face newly divorced people every day.  Post divorce people look around at their lives and see where the holes have been left and wonder how to fill them. While one way might be replacing basketball games with book stores, an important tool available to almost anyone is simply speaking out.

 Your friends and family want to know what you are thinking and feeling. It may feel tedious to have to say, “I am sad. I feel alone. I do not want to date again.”  But unless you say it, no one knows.  If your friends don’t know what hurts they don’t know how to help in whatever small (or large) ways they can. 

Longoria is doing what might be the healthiest thing she could be doing right now – letting those who care about her know what she feels.  People who think she should get over it already do not really care about her – no matter what she does.  She will get over it when she is ready to move on.  And that moment will likely come sooner if she continues to acknowledge whatever feelings are standing between her and her own happiness.

What we love:  It is not always easy to let others know your feelings; but it is almost always worth it; especially during one of the most challenging periods in your life.

What factors might a judge consider in Elizabeth Hurley’s divorce?

Elizabeth Hurley has filed for divorce from her husband of four years, Arun Nayar.  She was worth 13 billion pounds or so, before they married, from her work as a model, actress, spokesperson and designer.  Hurley is also famous for her bad relationships.  She helped make Hugh Grant famous by staying at his side, as his girlfriend of 11 years, after he was caught paying a prostitute.  Then, after she and Grant split, she gave birth to a son but had to use a paternity test to convince the biological father of his role in the boy’s life.

Then, in 2007, she married Nayar, a supposed heir to a fortune, but it turns out she is worth substantially more money than he is.  He refused to sign a prenuptial agreement which might have protected her – and her son – in case of a divorce.  Hurley and Nayar have been separated for several months.  This was made public after she was caught kissing Australian cricket player Shane Warne.  (Shane Warne is divorced from his wife, still lives with her and their children and has been reportedly involved recently with an adult film actress.)

Hurley does not seem to have great luck with men.

So, when Elizabeth Hurley goes before divorce court what factors might a judge consider in how much of Hurley’s money to award to Nayar?

*          How much money did each party bring to the marriage?

*          What ability does each party have to earn money after the divorce?

*          How will Nayar’s lifestyle be effected if he is not supported by Hurley?

*          How will Hurley’s lifestyle be effected by having to support Nayar?

*          Has Nayar contributed to the support and well-being of Hurley’s son? If so, their may be a child-support offset to some of the award.

*          How much education does each party have?

*          Some jurisdictions consider the causes of the breakdown of the marriage.  Hurley has cited Nayar’s “irrational behavior” as the cause of the divorce and can probably substantiate Nayar’s relationship with a 23 year old model.

*          If Nayar is heir to a major textile fortune, as reported, he might stand to inherit significant money in the future.  If so, depending on how soon and how much he stands to inherit, a judge might weigh these factors against a need for Hurley to continue supporting him.

What we love:  The court’s first consideration must be, as must Hurley’s, the best interest of the minor child. So long as his interests are protected his mother might be out some money or his step-dad might be feeling the pinch soon; but the 8 year old should be fine.

 Let’s hope his mom starts making better decisions after this!

Tony Danza waits 4 years from Separation to Divorce. Why?

 According to papers filed on Danza’s behalf in the LA County Superior Court, Tony and Tracy Danza married in 1986 and separated in 2006, yet they waited until now to file for a divorce.  What could be some of the advantages of waiting this long?

 *          Danza has three children.  His son from his first marriage,  now married with a son himself, and two daughters with Tracy Danza: 23 year old Katherine and 17 year old Emily.  When the couple first separated Emily was 12 years old and still a minor child.  In the current filing, Danza states that there are no minor children of the marriage.  So if Emily is no longer considered a minor in the eyes of the California court, it might be that the Danzas had decided to wait until she was older to finalize their divorce.  This can prevent the court’s ability to get involved with decisions such as custody, child support, and visitation; hopefully leaving mature adults to work it out together independently.

 *          Divorce can feel too permanent to people who might just “need a break” from each other.  Sometimes a temporary physical and emotional separation can remind people of why they married in the first place and bring them a stronger sense of commitment to each other and their marriage.  Maybe the Danza separation was based on a hope that it would be a temporary split, eventually bringing them back together.  If, after four years of separation, the parties still do not feel a mutual desire to reconcile, they can be pretty sure they never will.

Regardless of whether the separation was to protect the children from legal battles or with hopes of reconciliation or other reasons, the effect of going through an extended separation prior to filing for divorce is that the waiting period frequently serves to cool hot emotions. 

When one spouse feels that the other is in a rush to be divorced and “free” issues can become protracted and arguments get heated.  When there is an opportunity to allow everyone a long separation and a chance to cool off, the divorce itself can be as simple as a business transaction.

 There are ways of protecting your rights during a separation period. Many states have instituted court-sanctioned legal separation, as well as other alternatives to a final divorce.

WHAT WE LOVE:  low emotional content; cooler heads prevailing

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