Divorce All-Stars: Heather Mills & Sir Paul McCartney

Things seemed great for Paul and Heather at the start. They had a fairytale wedding, complete with castle and signature song. Oh, but then…

Things started going south after the birth of their child. Then things went from south to knock down, drag out war. Heather blamed the marriage’s demise on one of Paul’s older children and made various claims of abuse. Paul’s team countered with Heather’s own words found in happy anecdotes featured in a book released by Heather in 2006.

Heather fired her lawyer and began representing herself in the proceedings and asked for £125 million. Paul countered with nearly £16 million. They finally settled at nearly £25 million plus yearly support payments. To add insult to injury, during the judgement the presiding judge praised Paul’s handling of the case and scolded Heather for giving inaccurate and inconsistent evidence.

While money can’t buy you love, it can buy you freedom.

McCartney seems to have found L-O-V-E with Barbara Walters’ niece but I think it’s Martha who will always have the crooner’s heart.

Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

 

Divorce All-Stars: Elin Nordegren & Tiger Woods

Who could forget the Tiger Woods/Elin Nordegren trainwreck? Once upon a time Tiger Woods was America’s golden child. Parents around the country pushed their kids into the most boring sport invented hoping their average kid with sub-average hand-eye coordination would turn out to be the next Tiger. He had sponsorships coming out of his ears and the whole country cheering for him. It seemed nothing could go wrong…

Then it turned out he was a compulsive cheater and not so cool of a dude and we all turned on him and shamed him into doing weird apology commercials like this one:

Weird, right?

Tiger and Elin were married in 2004. His indiscretions came to light in 2009 after Tiger got in a weird car accident near their home. Tiger went to cheater rehab, as was popular at the time, but it didn’t save their marriage. The divorced was finalized in 2010 and Elin walked away with a reported $100 million.

What can we learn from this? Don’t put people on pedestals and golf is boring. 

Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

Divorce All-Stars: Madonna & Her (Former) Guy

Gather round, kids, it’s time for your #throwbackthursday divorce story of the week!

Once upon a time (in 2000), just around the time Madonna started pretending to be English, Madonna and Guy were married. They married in a Scottish castle just after their son was born and teamed up together to work on a very terrible film. Thankfully they decided to keep their careers separate following the movie’s epic flop and kept sailing along adding another child to their brood in 2006.

BUT THEN.

Rumors soon started swirling that there was trouble in paradise. They confirmed the split was legit by explaining they couldn’t “bear to live with the pretense any longer,” (#UGH) because Madonna must always be the most dramatic Madonna she can possibly be, at all times. But don’t cry for her (Argentina). 

The divorce proceedings were seemingly tame, and the settlement was finalized in 2008 with Madonna agreeing to pay out Guy something in the ballpark of $80 million. They split custody of their children, though Guy received full custody of Madonna’s English accent.

It was all very posh and everyone lived happily ever after. 

The End.

Divorce All-Stars: Katy Perry & Russell Brand

I recently shared a post holding up Bruce Willis and Demi Moore as paradigms of mature divorce. Now I want to focus on a slightly—or very—different recently divorced couple, one you might not expect: Katy Perry and Russell Brand.

If you’re one of the uninitiated, Katy Perry is a pop singer-slash-pinup girl known for such classics as “I Kissed a Girl” and “Teenage Dream,” and Brand is a British comedian-slash-revolutionary who likes to piss off various members of the upper classes and book critics by publishing bad—but entertaining—books about Che Guevara.

In all, these two were married, I think, a total of about fourteen months. Not a great start, but hey, we all make mistakes. Anyway, once you get past the uber-quick marriage, there’s a lot to be said for how Brand and Perry handled the divorce once it was in progress. Much like the stars of divorce badassery Bruce and Demi, Perry and Brand kept things pretty much under wraps in terms of how they presented things to the public.

I mean, Brand made some jokes—that’s his job, after all—but they were pretty mild, and he was ultimately as graceful as Russell Brand has ever been about anything. He wasn’t mean-spirited, just honest: “Marriage is an arse-ache,” was about the height of detail he gave when the media was rushing for the reasons for divorce. Well, sometimes, yes it is. Moving on.

Perry was totally silent on the matter, keeping mum even after a divorce-themed prank was pulled on her by a UK DJ on the air in the middle of her divorce—now that’s professionalism. The point is, the two haven’t said anything vindictive about each other, even when hounded, undoubtedly by the press, to do so. As a result, while people might snicker at the length of the marriage, and maybe the fact that Brand originally suggested a break by text message, overall they did pretty well. Regardless of behind-the-scenes feelings, Brand opted not to take the $20 million of Perry’s money that he was legally entitled to, and Perry even left Brand a little smiley face on their divorce papers.

When it comes to talking about your marriage, there’s a fine line between what’s professional and what isn’t, and Brand and Perry managed like pros. Brand got a laugh or two and moved on; Perry just moved on. And while I don’t condone poking public fun at your marriage or divorce—seems like a recipe for making either one more difficult—I always condone poking fun at yourself. Don’t forget that laughter is the best medicine.

 

Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

Divorce All-Stars: Diandra Luker & Michael Douglas

Picture this:

It’s 1977…

Jimmy Carter has just been inaugurated…

A young couple is slow dancing on a crowded dance floor to Rod Stewart’s “Tonight’s the Night” (maybe that’s the song? I’m just taking a stab in the dark here)…

That couple? Michael Douglas and Diandra Luker. At a Jimmy Carter inauguration party. Seriously! That’s where Michael Douglas met first wife Diandra, the daughter of an Austrian diplomat. Celebrities really aren’t at all like us, are they?

The two were married six weeks later and Diandra stood by Michael’s side as his career took off. They reportedly separated sometime around 1995 and haggled over details until 2000, when the divorce was finally settled.

In recent reports, Michael has allegedly claimed the marriage went on for ten years too long. Perhaps he’s speaking about the emotional burden of ten years of strife, or perhaps it’s the $45 million payout he ended up having to fork over that’s really got him wanting to rewrite history.

Divorce All-Stars: Jerry Hall & Mick Jagger

According to rock and roll legend, this rockstar divorce all started when Mick chased Jerry around a ping pong table at a party in 1976. Jerry’s then-fiance Bryan Ferry kicked very married Mick out of the party and a year passed before they saw each other again. Mick, still married and Jerry, still engaged fell in love during a clandestine vacation in Morocco because when you’re a married rockstar courting an engaged supermodel, theatre tickets and Italian reservations just won’t do. What followed was a highly publicized romance full of passion, cheating (allegedly), world tours and magazine covers.

In 1990, after two kids and quite the rollercoaster of a relationship, they made things official — err, “official” — in a traditional Balinese Hindu ceremony that wasn’t exactly legal. They lived as husband and wife and had two more children before things came to a head when Mick got a Brazilian model pregnant. Jerry had enough of his cheating and filed for divorce in 1999, but all was not so straightforward.

Turns out that Balinese wedding wasn’t so official and Mick and Jerry had actually been living ascommon law husband and wife. Mick contested the legality of the marriage with this quite large loophole and they were granted an annulment instead of a divorce. Jerry walked away with an amount estimated to be between $15 million and $25 million, a fraction of Mick’s alleged $325 million fortune.

You might think things get pretty awkward any time they cross paths now, but that’s not the case at all! Mick and Jerry are quite civil and see each other often at family get togethers and Hollywood soirees. This all could have gone very TMZ when you think about the moving parts of this story — rockstar, supermodel, Balinese marriage, lots of alleged infidelities, etc., but instead it turned out to be a best case scenario split.

Have a question about divorce? Leave it in comments below, tweet to me, email me, phone me— Let’s talk.

Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

Divorce Lessons From the Real Housewives of Orange County

Everyone has their favorite nutso reality wives, and the Real Housewives of Orange County are (one of) mine. Each season is chock-full of WTF-ery, and this season’s no exception. Not only are they full of drama, silicone and alcohol, but they’ve also been keeping us divorce lawyers busy for ten seasons now. Just how many divorces have these ladies left in their wake? Let’s take a look.

Vicki Gunvalson – 2

Tamra Judge – 2

Alexis Bellino – 1

Gretchen Rossi – 1

Shannon Beador – 0

Heather Dubrow – 0

Jeana Keough – 1

Lauri Waring – 2

Lizzie Rovsek – 0

Lydia McLaughlin – 0

Lynne Curtin – 1

Jo De La Rosa – 0

Quinn Fry – 1

Tammy Knickerbocker – 1

Peggy Tanous – 1

Kimberly Bryant – 0

Meghan King Edmonds – 0

That’s a total of 13 divorces! That’s a lot of summer homes, European vacations, and botox parties for my Californian colleagues. A lot of divorces yes, but none should be seen as anything but a learning experience, especially for viewers. Here are some important lessons we can learn from those spray-tanned, bejeweled top wearing, medically “enhanced” housewives:

1. Be honest about, and in the loop regarding your finances.
Lynne was blindsided by an eviction notice and a shocking confession from her husband regarding their dwindling bank accounts. Do not be Lynne. Do not assume bills are being paid and all is right with your family’s books. Even if you’re not the breadwinner, there is no reason you shouldn’t be totally on top of your family’s finances. Know your bills, know your bank accounts, know what’s coming in and what’s going out.

2. Divorce should be an option.
This season we’ve got a front row seat to Shannon’s marital troubles. From couples retreats to staged fake funerals, Shannon and husband David are really trying to save their marriage. Shannon keeps insisting “divorce isn’t an option.” Well, she doesn’t have to take it, but it should at least be an option. If they cannot make it through their problems, there is no reason they must stay together. It is a myth that staying together is better for the kids. Giving the kids a healthy, emotionally balanced household, or households as it were, should be the top priority. Screaming matches, miserable parents and growing resentment are all perhaps much worse than the divorce Shannon refuses to entertain.

3. Have a prenup! 
Vicki’s messy divorce from Don dragged on and on as they hammered out the details of their split, including the fight over spousal support. Not having a prenup can really cost you, as Vicki found out the hard way. Prenups don’t “ruin the romance,” they prepare you for the future because this is real life, not a fairytale. If your prenup never becomes applicable, great! If it does, you’ll thank yourself for having the safety net.

4. Don’t date Slade. Just don’t. Don’t.
Even if you had a time machine to take you back to his Amex- Black-Card-literally-setting-money-on-fire-with-idiotic-collectibles days from Season One it’s just not worth it. Just ask Jo who, you may have noticed, is now, post-Slade, far more likely to actually need that ridiculous maid costume for work as a real maid.

5. If financially possible, don’t live in the same house once you’ve decided to break up.
Jeana lived with Matt long after they decided to split. It was awkward and prevented Jeana from moving on with her life. When you split, hit the bricks if at all possible. Start fresh somewhere new, or have your ex-partner do it.

6. If it’s important to you, fight for it. 
Whether it’s the house, custody of the kids or the dogs (looking at you Gretchen), or anything else that means the world to a you, don’t give up the fight. Tamra had a bitter, drawn out custody battle with Simon that left her in tears throughout many episodes. But she kept fighting, and according to interviews she’s pleased with the final result.

7. The third time might just be the charm. 
One divorce may not be enough to get long lasting happiness; sometimes it takes two. Lauri, Vicki and Tamra all seem to have found love the third time around. While Tamra and Lauri went through with a third wedding, Vicki seems to be happy just living with Brooks (for the purposes of this lesson, please ignore all the Brooks turmoil, nod your head in agreement, and move onto the next lesson).

8. Don’t lose yourself in your marriage. 
If the housewives can teach us anything, it’s that keeping a sense of self is paramount to happiness. Design that jewelry, swimwear or dress line. Take a job on the “news,” start a wine club or develop a line of vodka. Whatever it is pursue your interests and if you can turn that pursuit into a paycheck, all the better for your post-divorce life!

9. If you’re having relationship troubles, don’t sign up for a reality television show. 
In no way will it help. Look at the dozens and dozens of reality divorces that preceded your relationship troubles. You are not somehow different from them. That kind of magnifying glass could shake up even the strongest of relationships. Pop the popcorn, change into your pjs and get comfy on the couch. It’s much better being on this side of the TV.

What valuable marriage and divorce lessons have the ladies of the OC taught you? Tweet me or leave it in the comments below!

Divorce All-Stars: Demi Moore & Bruce Willis

There are a lot of mistakes you can make while in the process of getting a divorce. Let’s face it: your negative emotions probably own your life, and you’ve started some not-so-great habits like having your first end-of-the-day glass of wine at 2 pm … It’s a recipe for disaster.

A good divorce attorney will help you avoid some of those mistakes, and in the spirit of being good at my job, I wanted to zoom in on couples who—although they’ve had very public divorces—have actually managed to make mostly good decisions and thus do minimal damage to themselves, their reputations, and probably their wallets as well.

Of those celebrities who have set a decidedly good example of divorce, Bruce Willis and Demi Moore are one of the classics.

Willis, best known for his roles in Die Hard and The Fifth Element, and Moore, known for films likeGhost and GI Jane, married in 1987, and had three children together. They divorced in 2000, for reasons that were never discussed publicly (this in itself was a hugely good decision on the part of both people).

Rumer, their oldest daughter, has been quoted as saying she is “so thankful and grateful” that her parents made such an effort to be civil, and keep things out of public eye. “I never had to split up vacations or split up birthdays,” said Rumer. “They always made an effort to do all of the family events still together and made such an effort to still have our family be as one unit, as opposed to two separate things, which I think really made an impact.”

The proof is in the pudding, as they say. There are virtually no negative comments, photos, or statements floating around out there in the media from either of the divorcees, meaning they really kept their mouths shut and did what was right for the kids and themselves. (After so many years in this business, I know that no matter how “amicable” a divorce is on the outside, there’s always hurt behind the scenes—nobody gets away scot-free.) There are also no photos of drunken rebound partying, no quick marriages to new people, no publicity stunts or strategic talk-show appearances directly associated with their divorce; they pretty much just got on with things and ignored the gossip mill, much to their benefit.

 
You do, however, see plenty of photos of the “one unit” family that Rumer Willis talked about, going on vacation with new partners and all. Whatever willpower it took those first couple of times, major kudos to Moore and Willis for pulling it off. And you can imagine it has lots of benefits, if you can actually get along with your ex’s new partner.

The persistent stereotype that divorce lawyers are more interested in increasing conflict than helping “cooler heads” prevail is understandable. Divorce lawyers get paid to fight.  We simply don’t get paid as much when people get along. To suggest that this means we are all, as a profession, interested in banging the war drums is simply inaccurate.  Oncologists don’t get paid when people don’t get cancer – but they aren’t looking to give people cancer or hoping that the cancer spreads so they can buy into a nicer share in the Hamptons.

Divorce attorneys are actually in a position to support genuinely amicable arrangements if the divorcing parties are interested in doing that. We’ve been on both sides of nearly every co-parenting issue two people can dispute and we can give you solid advice on how to lower the level of conflict and become not only a cooperative co-parent but a proactive co-parent: quashing conflicts before they happen and anticipating issues that might, if left unattended, cause short or long term upset between otherwise amicable parties.

There’s an old saying in divorce law: “Elephants don’t marry Zebras”.  Both Bruce and Demi (and the family law attorneys who advised them) deserve a round of applause for the family life they worked to create for their children.  I’m sure it wasn’t always easy but the rewards were likely well worth the challenges. In a world where divorces and custody disputes can be brutal – it’s nice to see a family doing it well.  Gold star for the Moore/Willis clan!

Have a question about divorce? Leave it in comments below, tweet to me, email me, phone me—I’m all ears.

Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

'Til Conscious Uncoupling Do Us Part

Around this time last year, I tuned into celebrity gossip for a brief moment when I heard about Gwyneth Paltrow’s grave announcement that she and her husband were divorcing—or to put it more Gwyneth-ly, “consciously uncoupling.” She released a statement about this, along with an explanation of conscious uncoupling from a guru, on her website Goop. This was put alongside equally realistic Goop items, like her exploration of the healing powers of “moon juice” and “spirit truffles.” (Surely those aren’t included in the “food stamp challenge” she recently attempted. Hey, at least we're talking about it... But, I digress.)

By the end of the day I received phone calls and emails from, literally, dozens of my friends and family members asking if I had heard about this “new” way of divorcing. It was difficult to suppress the combination yawn/gag inspired by Ms. Paltrow’s missive.

I’ve devoted my life’s work to helping couples, eh, “uncouple,” so absolutely no judgment from me on that front. Divorces for everyone! You will get no complaints from me. Though I did have to raise an eyebrow at the statement “We have always conducted our relationship privately”; indeed, so privately that Goop.com got so much traffic after this was posted that it crashed! Well played, Gwyneth P.

April 17 2015 TWO.jpg

In all seriousness, I’m sure Gwyneth Paltrow is a perfectly likable person in real life, and probably even a regular human woman, rather than a floating ethereal aura. Her brand has done well, and maybe she really has brought happiness to many, through her outreach via expensive candles. And if renaming divorce makes us feel better, then so be it. (I should possibly add a “Conscious Uncoupling” section to my website.)

The idea of a ‘friendly divorce’ has been around for a long time. My firm gets a lot of press for our “take no prisoners” aggressive approach when the situation requires it - but we resolve countless divorces each year by simple discussions and friendly negotiations. I love a good fight (what can I say - it’s a side effect of being good at fighting) but I love a happy client more. That’s why I, and all good divorce lawyers, will always work hard to give you a divorce that looks more like a “conscious uncoupling” than a “War of the Roses”. We’ve been doing that for years. There’s nothing “new” about being friendly to someone you’re going to have to see at your children’s weddings someday. This is simply a new term for a very old concept (and GP didn’t come up with it - a therapist named Katherine Woodward Thomas did - a bunch of years earlier).

I feel I need to say, though, that one of the things I have learned in my particular line of work is that uncoupling is not generally done while anyone is unconscious. For legal reasons I think it’s important for everyone to understand this--you can’t divorce anyone who is unconscious so congratulations - You, too, have reached the G.P. level of sophistication we all previously thought was impossible.

Respectfully,

James J. Sexton

Get Divorced Like a Real Housewife

As I’m sure you already know, the seventh season of the masterpiece Real Housewives of New York (#RHONY to those in the know) premieres this evening on Bravo.

Perhaps it surprises you that this is one of my favorite shows. Hardly a guilty pleasure, I have watched Real Housewives for five glorious years of pinot-drinking, catfighting madness. It bespeaks my values with gems like “I was so mad I almost ran her down in my Ferrari” and “I fought too hard for this zip code to go home now.” Oh, and classic wisdom: “You work hard, you give a lot of love, and you end up at the White House.” Words to live by.

The Real Housewives have also done their part to keep my industry afloat, with a whopping 33% of the couples on the show getting divorced, and no end in sight. And they do it with style - if you think you’ve got divorce figured out, you don’t. The RHONY wives are the people you want to take notes from. Here’s how to get divorced like they do.*

  1. Leading up to your divorce, air your dirty laundry to anybody who will listen.

  2. Get plastic surgery as a coping mechanism.

  3. Get drunk, get loud, and storm out of a restaurant.

  4. Put on a lot of mascara and then cry on someone’s shirt.

  5. Go to a club.

  6. Go to the Hamptons to blow off steam. Throw something at someone there.

  7. Date someone old (with money).

  8. Date someone fat (with money).

  9. Date someone who doesn’t have money and then giggle about it over cocktails.

  10. After your divorce, write a book in which you air your dirty laundry to anybody who will read it.

  11. Go to a club.

  12. Develop adult-onset asthma so that people will pay attention to you.

  13. Be loudly and self-righteously offended AT ANYONE AT ANY TIME. It’s your right.

  14. Sue someone for a book they’re writing that makes allusions to your dirty laundry.

  15. Have a lot of “turtle time”.*

  16. Make up a catch phrase that doesn’t work, because you’re middle-aged.

  17. Tell people to “be cool.”

  18. Go to a club.

  19. Flirt inappropriately.

  20. Consider having another baby.

Right, time for me to break out the Kit Kats and SkinnyGirl Sweet’Rita, RHONY is waiting. Mazel tov.

Respectfully,

James J. Sexton