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.