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Fame Is A Harsh Mistress

Written By: Ron Funk

It has recently been reported that UCLA head football coach Jim Mora Jr. missed a UCLA football camp due to his separation from his wife of 35 years. You see this quite often, where people in high visibility, high commitment, or high-pressure careers just can’t seem to make their marriages work. It’s a testament to how difficult marriage is, and how people so often have to choose what they are going to give their attention.

I recall an article about the former Miami Hurricane, Dallas Cowboy and Miami Dolphin head coach Jimmie Johnson, who apparently made the decision to divorce his wife in order to focus on football. I suppose that’s one way to ensure you don’t spread your attention too thin.

This is going to be an extremely expensive decision for Coach Mora. His current contract pays him about $3.5 million per year through 2019. You can bet his wife is going to get a big chunk of that (as well as any assets they’ve accumulated throughout their 35 years as a married couple).

What about the property they may have acquired in other states where he’s coached, which may not be community property states? They’ll be divorcing in California, a community property state, and California law provides that even real property located in other, non-community property states, will be treated as community property – “quasi-community property.”

Coach Mora is certainly not going to be destitute after his divorce is over, but his estate is going to be substantially lighter. Not only giving up half of all of his real and personal property to his wife, but a thirty-five-year marriage is a long-term marriage in California, which means he is going to be paying his wife a huge chunk of spousal support for a very long time.

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Prenup: Lessons for Johnny Depp

by Chandra Moss

As most persons have “heard” by now (pun intended), actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard went through a heavy divorce battle. Unfortunately for Mr. Depp, per media reports, the parties did not sign a prenuptial agreement. Why unfortunate? Because under California’s community property laws, Ms. Heard may be entitled to one-half of all property and income accrued during the short fifteen month marriage.

What is a prenuptial agreement? Under California law, prior to marriage, parties may agree to limit the effects of the state’s community property rules. For example, they can decide what current and future property remains the separate property of a party, waive apportionment of increases in value of businesses during marriage and determine whether future wages and salaries are a party’s separate property and not amenable to division.

Parties to a prenuptial agreement may provide for a method by which community property is obtained, how community expenses are to be paid and whether or not there is a “minimum” community property estate – in other words, a minimum amount of a person’s separate property which would be community upon divorce. Parties may even negotiate, limit or waive spousal support, or alimony as it is often called. These limits might include the maximum amount of total spousal support payable or the term for payment of spousal support.

In Mr. Depp’s case, he may well rue the lack of a prenuptial agreement protecting his estate. Consider this:

  • During his short term marriage to Ms. Heard, Mr. Depp worked on two notable major productions – “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” and “Alice Through the Looking Glass”. Not only might he be on the hook for giving Ms. Heard 50% of his wages, he may also be paying her 50% of the residuals. Residuals are like a royalty paid to a performer for repeat of the production.
  • Mr. Depp is no doubt the high wage earner of the duo. While this marriage is considered short term by the Court (and therefore spousal support is generally paid for half the length of the marriage), he could be paying out big time to Ms. Heard. The Court might not have issued a spousal support order on an emergency basis, but you can be sure the issue will be “heard” at some date in the near future.

This by no means is a full recitation of what Mr. Depp stood to lose for his failure to plan. While most of us don’t have quite so much to lose, considering a prenuptial agreement to protect separate assets, limit alimony liability and to reduce future litigation can save headaches and costs in the event of a dissolution. If you have any questions about the advantages preparing a prenuptial agreement, please give us a call.

Specific Divorce Concerns for Couples with High Net Worth

A divorce is never easy and although each couple will go through similar processes, no two cases are ever the same. This can be especially true for couples who have experienced extraordinary financial success. Spouses who command sizable incomes often have complex financial situations which can complicate issues such as child custody, alimony, and concerns of privacy. Below, we look at several issues which require special consideration for spouses working through a high net worth divorce.

Issues in a high asset divorce can include:

  1. Business interests: A common situation involves couples with shared interests in a local or family-run business. The accurate evaluation of a company can be complex and often requires the services of a specialist such as a forensic accountant. Financial disclosure and the discovery of assets can include the careful review of tax returns, employee compensation structures, and each spouse’s specific role within the organization.
  2. Real estate holdings: While spouses will generally have a primary family residence, they may also own vacation homes and condos for their children. A location may carry great sentimental value for one or more spouses and the division of real estate can quickly become convoluted. Additionally, issues of post-divorce residence can be influenced by what is in the best interest of the children. For example, some locations may be more practical for school and work than others.
  3. Spousal support: Spousal support, or alimony, can come into play when one spouse is financially dependent on the other for maintaining their standard of living. While alimony may not be a factor when both partners earn relatively similar incomes, it can be a central point of discussion when one party earns substantially more than their partner. When determining appropriate compensation, a court may consider factors such as the length of a marriage, the earning potential of each spouse, levels of education, and the overall health of each partner.
  4. Privacy: It is understandable that divorcing spouses do not want their private family life to be on public display and concerns of privacy can require considerable attention. Spouses are often active members within their communities and information which is revealed during a divorce can irrevocably affect personal and business relationships alike. Securing legal representation with an eye towards discretion can make a considerable difference in the outcome of a divorce.
  5. Child support: Just as a court will generally base decisions on what is in the best interest of a child, parents too want to see that funds for the continuation of their child’s activities are well established. Parents may need to take into account expenses such as private school tuition, the services of a live-in nanny, and study abroad program fees.

Questions About High-Asset Divorce? Call (855) 939-9111

At Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC, we understand the social and economic issues specific to high-net worth divorce and can help our clients to overcome the hurdles which lie ahead. If your marriage has begun to break down, contact our firm and put more than two centuries of collective experience in family law to work for you. Speak with our Orange County high asset divorce attorneys today and get your questions answered in an initial free phone consultation.

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