Is infidelity epidemic for athletes? I think not. But I do think that famous people have more opportunities for, are given more opportunities for, or are solicited more for extra marital relationships than the average person. Does that make it okay? No. Does that make it a little easier to understand, yes.
I am often asked why athletes or other famous people seem to have more extramarital relationships than the average person. First I am not convinced that is true. But second, if it is true, there must be some explanation, even if we don’t like the explanation. One such explanation is that the offer or opportunity is probably much more present for these high profile folks. Should they resist, sure. Are they human, sure. Is it human to cheat?????? Having sex is human. Seduction is human.
ESPN just wrote an article on this topic and interviewed me about it (that is what gave me the idea for this blog entry). You can see the article by clicking here. What is interesting to me is not the cheating, but America’s fascination with it. Stories of infidelity amongst the famous are always big news. Tony Parker, Tiger Woods, A-Rod, Bill Clinton and on and on. Why do we care? Perhaps it is because we expect more from our heroes. We expect that those whom we admire, those who are more athletic than the rest of us, more successful than the rest of us would also be more moral than the rest of us. After all, we are supposed to play by the rules, why shouldn’t they, especially when they already have so much. Perhaps the fascination is with the fact that the rich and famous are never satisfied, even though we would be if we had a tenth of their wealth, fame or success (but would we?).
To me the real issue is the relationship that is being hurt. If there is a family that is otherwise working well, extramarital affairs are quite an obstacle. In my experience, it seems that most such affairs start well after the marriage is on the down turn. Yes new relationships should wait until a marriage has fully ended, but we are not a patient species.
I do not have the answers, but I do enjoy asking the questions, which is a good place to start. Tell me what you thing by commenting.
Just like the rumors in the Tiger Woods divorce, there are rumors that the first time Eva Longoria caught Tony Parker cheating, she asked (or told?) him that the amounts she was to receive in their prenuptial agreement, in the event of divorce, must be increased. And if true, he likely complied because he loves his wife, wanted to stay married and felt guilty.
Relationships are very interesting and are what makes the human world go around. Money as punishment? Is that right? Well it happens all the time. Personal injury awards grant a victim of a car crash money, but does money replace a loved one, or a fractured bone? Slander claims often result in money damages, but does that undo the damage to reputation? I would submit that this example of “upping the prenup” is a way to artificially incentivize people to be monogamous or faithful. Is it right? Who knows, it is not for me to judge. But just thinking about the concept is interesting, at least to me. We use money to incentivize, to punish and to reward. Shouldn’t we be able to accomplish what we want without that? If the cheated on spouse still loves the other and wants to stay together, why ask for more money? If the cheater is truly regretful, why not just give the other whatever he/she asks for? In the end it seems we are all individuals. Maybe I am jaded as a divorce lawyer, but even I believe there are many, many people who instead of discussing money would simply discuss the relationship. If they both want it to continue, it will, if not, then it’s over. But of course it’s never that easy, is it?
This is always an interesting question: the right to seal divorce records. A recent AJC article (click “story” for it) illustrates how the public clamors for details, especially when the party is running for office. A very similar situation unfolded a few years ago when the Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives had his divorce case sealed.
But what about less famous people? Should the public have a right to know the details of the average divorce? When children will be dropped off? How much money each side gets? Why not keep those things private? I do not think the public’s right or need to know should outweigh an individual’s ability to keep these matters private. Just because a relationship ends, why do the financial details become private? Married couples can keep their information private. Just because a relationship ends, is publicity another form of punishment we should heap upon people already suffering the end of a relationship they once thought was forever? For me the answer is clear. Why not allow some privacy? Absent some major need to know (examples are hard to find), I say keep it private.
About a year ago, we represented an NFL footlball player in a matter where he had been ordered to fund a trust, in case he missed child support payments. The trust was a sort of collateral. That trust was upheld by the Georgia Supreme Court and this week, they have upheld a payment of “lump sum child support”. The case is Mullin v. Mullin.
While the goal of ensuring the child’s best interest is always paramount, this case presents a few complications (all of which are resolved in favor of allowing the award, since it is in the child’s best interests). Some of those concerns are that should circumstances change, the usual course would be for one party to seek a modification of the monthly payments. But in this case, the payments will have already been made. What if the child moves in with the paying parent one day, or with his relatives? Mother has already received hundreds of thousands of dollars, and then there may be no money left for the new caretaker(s) of the child.
While there are many interesting legal angles, it is hard to be upset with a court sytem that seems to err on the side of protecting children. After all, if the parents are fighting with each other, shouldn’t the court be the one voice that speaks first and foremost for the children?
The saying “When God closes a door, he opens a window” can sometimes be very appropriate in family law settings. Sandra Bullock’s situation is a prime example. While a door was closed for her (divorce with ugly allegations that her husband Jesse James cheated), perhaps a more important window was opened, the adoption of a baby boy (Washington Post story can be viewed by clicking here). Her love for her child is so apparent that it is clear that perhaps she was freed of a bad marriage to make time for a person who she could love even more and who could return the love equally and unequivocally.
In our experience as divorce lawyers, we are often fortunate enough to see clients after the divorce has passed. While some struggle for years, many, if not most, move on and find happiness that they may not otherwise have found. That is one of the most gratifying parts of our job. Since the future is never certain, and is almost always frightening for anyone going through a divorce, the ability to watch people go through it and survive and succeed is an awe inspiring experience. Almost everyone who goes through a divorce, never ever dreamed of the possibilty of a separation or divorce. Then, to accept the failure of their marriage, a project they worked on, planned and tried their very best to make work, is always difficult. And much more so when children are involved. Yet inevitably life moves forward. New relationships are formed, different connections are made, and life goes on.
The bottom line is that change is inevitable and when it is as significant as a divorce, everything changes. But as human beings we strive to improve our circumstances, no matter what is thrown at us. And guess what, many people succeed in that. No, not everyone moves on and is better off for divorce. Money is tighter, logistical difficulties preventing non-custodial parents from seeing their kids arise, but we learn to cope with these issues. Of course there are times when the path of divorce was too quickly chosen. But in the majority of cases we see, the die has been cast, as in Sandra Bullock’s case. When the couple has passed the proverbial “point of no return” (one party cheating with porn stars?), then the real question is how to move on respectfully and with dignity. And I suggest that Sandra Bullock, at least from what we can glean through the press, has done exactly that. It is refreshing to see and likely inspirational to many.
Why is the McCourt’s divorce unique? Because lately the high profile cases in the news have been resolved out of court (Think Tiger Woods, Sandra Bullock and A-Rod). In fact, most high profile matters our firm is involved in are settled without any press and with very little expense. Actually going to trial with so many dollars at stake (and so much public reputation to lose) is becoming rarer and rarer. But the McCourts are there (click here for link to UPI story). No doubt the lawyers tried their best to guide the parties to resolution. Lawyers of that caliber always do. But when one party (or both) think their position is blatantly reasonable, or is an obvious “winner” in court (there is no such thing), it can be hard to settle a case. Some cases are just easier to try.
Unfortunately for the McCourts, it appears the court will decide their divorce which is guaranteed to make one, if not both parties displeased with the outcome.
On ocassion we encounter a stubborn opponent (opposing party or opposing lawyer). Even then, steps are taken to try to reach resolution. Mediation, settlement conferences and even pre-trial conferences with the judge are usually attempted to promote settlement. We also sometimes utilize a process known as Late (or Early) Case Evaluation. This process entails hiring a family law attorney who is respected by both sides to give everyone a “reality check”. Sometimes that does the trick. But when someone is truly unreasonable, the only way to resolve a case is trial. But even then, the good lawyers can only ease their conscience if they have truly attempted settlement first. But once settlement efforts are exhausted, trial becomes inevitable. Perhaps the one benefit of the McCourts actually going to trial is that others will realize how risky and costly trial can be, and thus become more determined to resolve their own cases privately. Let’s hope the message is sent, and heard, loudly and clearly.
Marital property is a topic that is defined slightly differently from state to state. But in almost every state (perhaps all), money that is acquired after the date of the final divorce is not marital and is not subject to division (unless otherwise agreed). Nonetheless, actor Michael Douglas’ ex wife is seeking monies Mr. Douglas receives based on a film which may not have even been conceived, but certainly on which Mr. Douglas had not worked during the marriage (click this sentence for a link to the Associated Press story). This sounds like an attempt to obtain property earned after a divorce. Yet Ms. Douglas has made an interesting claim. Since her divorce papers entitled her to proceeds from work Mr. Douglas did during the marriage even if the monies came after the divorce (such as residuals), she now claims that a sequel to the movie “Wall Street” qualifies as related to work he did before the divorce. I don’t buy that argument. A simple analogy would be a professional athlete. If, after a divorce, an athlete receives a new contract to receive money for playing his or her sport, isn’t that related to work during the marriage? But my point is that the easiest, and most logical interpretation of the Douglas’ divorce document would seem to be something like “money that flows in, without requiring work by either party, but rather merely as a pure result of effort during the marriage, should be subject to division”.
Family law is never boring and I look forward to the result of this claim, especially if a court’s interpretation is required. My best guess is that this will be resolved out of court by the parties, but at a minimum, it does seem like Ms. Douglas has an argument, albeit in my opinion, a losing one.
As I discussed in a recent blog entry, private resolution of potentially public disputes is a real challenge, but almost always worth the effort. Even though the Tiger vs. Elin divorce (click for Washington Post story) garnered about as much press as any in recent history, apparently they were able to reach resolution privately. At least at this point, the terms of the settlement have been kept secret and that is a compliment to the parties, their lawyers, the lawyers’ office staffs and the family and friends of the parties who may have been privy to details. My congratulations to the parties and the lawyers for keeping the terms private, at least so far.
Hilary Swank apparently views her divorce after 14 years of marriage as a sign of 14 years of success in marriage, rather than a failure. At least this is what USA Today reports (click for a link to the story).
When Diane Sawyer signed off after ten years as an anchor of one of America’s most loved news programs (Good Morning America), she quoted Dr. Suess (the story of her leaving GMA can be viewed by clicking here). The quote was “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” What a way to view such a big change.
If people going through a divorce could try to use this perspective, what a difference it might make. While it can be debated forever whether divorce in general is a good thing, the truth is, once it happens, about all one can do is to try to manage it in the best way possible. Dr. Suess’ philosphy, reiterated by Diane Sawyer is one magical way to take a difficult situation and view it in a whole new light. For a guy who had such an influence on kids, adults could learn a thing or two from him as well.