By Frederick J. Siegel, Esq., Managing Partner
Bill and Melinda Gates, Sofia Vergara and Joe Manganiello, and Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos all have something in common: they have had mostly quiet, amicable and reasonable divorce resolutions. They were careful to do so out of the public eye and allowed their lawyers and accountants to get their divorce agreements nailed down without airing those issues publicly.
Other couples can take some valuable lessons from these famous figures. Here are a few:
Prenuptial agreements can make the divorce process happen quicker. Many celebrities will not get married without prenuptial agreements executed well before the marriage. For such contracts to be valid, each party must have their own counsel, fully disclose assets and income, and not be under duress when signing them.
Celebrities are not the only people who should value their privacy. Any couple with a child or children would not want their divorce to be public because it will work to their detriment. Does anyone think their teenager would be happy to learn their friends and neighbors know their business? Do litigants really want their work colleagues and friends to know the intimate details of how their marriages went bad? Celebrities often have no choice because the world wants to know the details of their breakups, but other individuals can and should keep their divorces private. There are ways to do that.
Co-parenting professionals can be a helpful resource in resolving major custody disputes. Custody is often a bone of contention between parents. Celebrities frequently have “villages” that include nannies, tutors and therapists to help them navigate these challenges. Some use co-parenting professionals to help them arrive at appropriate parenting plans and make the process collaborative instead of adversarial. These professionals are also available to others seeking divorces. They help with privacy issues and reduce the risk of a court-imposed custody order. The last thing any couple wants is a stranger telling them what to do with their children.
Divorce lawyers who work well together and speak the same language can resolve a case much easier, less expensively and in less time than lawyers who don’t trust one another. Celebrities facilitate private divorces by engaging battle-tested, experienced, intelligent matrimonial professionals who play well with others in the proverbial sandbox. Any divorcing couple should hire lawyers who put their needs first and are interested in protecting their children. The same goes for hiring forensic accountants, who are often necessary to appraise various assets belonging to the parties. Litigation is costly for anyone, so anything that keeps the costs down is a plus.
Mediation allows each party to be heard. Celebrities often retain the services of experienced lawyers or former judges to help them reach agreements. This process is highly confidential and allows each party to be heard under a cloak of some secrecy. It is available to any divorcing couple who prefers this approach to ending their marriage. The way it works is very simple. After each party is comfortable knowing the assets and income of the other, their lawyers agree on the former judge or experienced lawyer to meet with. It can be a one or multiple-day mediation where the person they select meets with everyone and tries to help them work out any disputed issue. These may include alimony, child support, custody and division of assets. Mediation is not binding, but litigants are smart enough to listen to the recommendations of the mediator.
The biggest lesson from celebrity divorces is that any resolution will be better than allowing a stranger in a robe to make decisions on their financial futures and the lives of their children. A divorce process done amicably and quietly is better for everyone, celebrity or not.