12 Tips on divorce from unwitting gurus: celebrity divorcees

12 Tips on divorce from unwitting gurus: celebrity divorcees

Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams’ years of handling family law cases in Washington and hitting “refresh” on one of our favorite family law research sites have paid off. And we’d like you to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Nope, we’re still not giving free legal advice* in this blog. We’ve compiled our favorite celebrity divorces because we’re feeling generous. By the end of this article, you’d learn lessons from these unwitting relationship and divorce gurus: celebrity divorcees.

*Of course, you can always call us or visit our Renton offices if you need legal representation for your dissolution of marriage in Washington.

  1. Make your divorce painless
  2. Prenups make more sense than you might think
  3. Things that might harm you during a divorce
  4. Family-related lessons we can glean from celebrity divorces

Make your divorce painless

As the wise and talented Chris Pratt once said, “Divorce sucks.” Like Pratt, who amicably divorced from Anna Faris, you too can make your divorce sting less. Here are ways to make your divorce decidedly un-sucky.

Tip #1 Plan for legal battle

Related article: When the wealthy argue over “table scraps”

Katie Holmes may not be as big a film star as her ex-husband Tom Cruise, but it was her performance during the TomKat split that earned rave reviews. To prepare for legal battle, Katie hired a team of New York family law attorneys who’ve dealt with high-profile cases. And though she could have filed for divorce in California (where she and Tom had spent considerable time), she chose New York because the divorce laws in NYC would be more favorable to her in every aspect. Careful planning and a desire to shield then-little Suri from the harsh glare of publicity helped TomKat reach a settlement in just 11 days.

You don’t need to be Tom Cruise’s ex to know that planning ahead and consulting lawyers from your home state would greatly benefit your case. Truly, the TomKat divorce should have earned Katie an Oscar nomination.

Tip #2 It pays to hire badass family law attorneys

Related article: Divorce and pet custody: fighting over cats and dogs

Britney Spears is not that innocent. Everybody knows that, especially her ex-husband, and former backup dancer Kevin Federline. She made him believe that he was probably going to get millions when he married the millionaire pop star. He didn’t, thanks to Britney’s army of lawyers. That didn’t stop K-Fed’s toxic team from slipping into Britney’s inbox to say, "Gimme more child support payments." The lesson is clear: getting strong legal representation helps protect what’s near and dear to you — including your pets. Hire excellent lawyers, and emerge from the circus of divorce stronger than yesterday.

Tip #3 Creating your own narrative pays off

Related article: Mr. Amazon versus Mrs. Bezos: Who wins and who loses?

Paying for a great lawyer is smart. Sometimes, it just pays to be smart like Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos, who both have so much money that they could settle the divorces of everyone on this list. The billionaire exes smartly created their own narrative when they divorced. Instead of allowing the media to write about how rich but miserable they’re going to be, the Bezoses announced that they are splitting as co-parents, friends, and business partners. This made their divorce short and sweet, saving them a couple of pennies in court fees.

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Prenups make more sense than you might think

Divorce — the dissolution of a marriage contract — often means a 50-50 split of conjugal assets, regardless of how unequal the economic contributions either spouse made during the union. Therefore, a prenuptial agreement — stipulations to a basic marriage contract — can make a lot of economic sense. Here’s a few tips about prenups we can learn from celebrity divorces.

Tip #4 Have a friggin’ prenup if you’re not in favor of a 50-50 split...

Imagine being an A-list movie star and commercially successful director with a net worth of approximately $850 million. Then imagine forking half of that over to your spouse, a dental nurse-turned-voice actor and radio and television personality. This is exactly what Mel Gibson did when his divorce with Robyn Denise Moore was finalized. While Moore was successful in her career in her own right, the lack of a prenup simply made her $425 million richer.

...and in the absence of a prenup, settle amicably

Related article: Things we learned from the Bezoses’ finalized divorce

This was the case between Amazon billionaires Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos. While Mackenzie could’ve fought for exactly half of her ex-husband’s fortune, which at the time of their divorce amounted to $138 billion and included shares in Amazon, The Washington Post, and Blue Origin (a spacecraft firm), she chose not to — most likely because of the following reasons:

  • The settlement made her a multibillionaire anyway.
  • She only had interest (or faith) in Amazon (she sold all of her interests in Bezos’ other major business ventures).
  • Auditing their shared assets and liabilities would’ve prolonged their divorce proceedings — something that both she and Jeff didn’t want.
  • She’s busy — she has kids to take care of and charities to manage — and did not want to draw out divorce settlement negotiations.

Tip #5: Make the prenup legal and binding — don’t write it on a cocktail napkin

Writing an informal prenup is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as you actually formalize it at the end of the day. In Steven Spielberg and Amy Irving’s case, however, the prenup remained on the back of a napkin. Irving, Spielberg’s wife of four years, argued that she wasn’t represented by an attorney when they came up with that agreement. Since legal procedures were not observed, the California courts voided the scrap paper prenup and awarded Irving $100 million — half of the Academy Award winning director’s earnings during the entire length of their marriage.

Tip #6: Renew your prenup periodically

Related article: Celebrity prenups that worked in favor of one of the ex-spouses

Chris Rock actually had the right idea when he had then-fiancee Malaak Compton sign a prenup that would limit what she would get from Chris in case they separated. However, that prenup had a sunset clause that made the agreement expire before the divorce was filed.

The lesson here is that couples must update their prenups or draw up entirely new ones (which would be technically called antenuptials or postnups). Beyond avoiding lapsing agreements, antenuptials allows stipulations to be revised in accordance with the spouses’ current economic standings. However, it is best to write in a periodic schedule for postnups in the prenup, since asking for a postnup out of the blue is a giant red flag that a divorce is looming.

While it is romantic to hope for the best, it is practical to prepare for the worst. Unless one is marrying for money, no one enters marriage expecting divorce. This is why decouplings are painful, and why having money issues is like rubbing salt into post-marital wounds. Having a prenuptial agreement allows divorce settlements to be reached more quickly and amicably.

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Things that might harm you during a divorce

Problematic behavior from these celebrity divorcees, who make our jobs so easy, can teach you a thing or two about how not to mess up your divorce.

Tip #7 Don’t badmouth your ex in public

One of the first things you need to do when deciding to divorce is to get legal representation. The second thing is to log off Twitter (read: stay away from social media) where the temptation to post scathing things about your ex is a few keystrokes away. Don’t emulate Kim Kardashian-West who fanned the flames of her short, short marriage to Kris Humphries by talking to the media about him.

This is not to suppress your freedom to vent your feelings about the end of your marriage; this is merely to avoid dragging out your divorce, which can happen if you use social media to attack your ex. Unless you have mastered the art of subtweeting, stay away from social media. Curb the urge to be the Tweet wit at least until after your divorce has been finalized.

Tip #8 Don’t air your dirty laundry in public

Thousands watched the home-made married-life documentary of once-bankable celebs like Jon & Kate Gosselin and Jessica Simpson & Nick Lachey. You, a regular person, are probably not going to overshare scenes from your marriage Newlyweds-style. You’d be more inclined to overshare on Facebook or Instagram.


Don’t share photos of you on an expensive vacation with a new lover especially while your divorce is ongoing. Doing so can affect the judge’s decision in computing spousal support. Don’t Snapchat photos of you partying until the wee hours of the morning. These snaps can be used against you in a child custody case (don’t use Snapchat, period). Before you post anything on social media, ask yourself: “Is this something Kim K. would post?” If the answer’s yes, don’t do it.

Tip #9 Don’t renege on settlement agreements

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard had a tumultuous split that should have concluded when their legal teams reached a $7 million out-of-court settlement. Amber made a power move by donating the money to charities that advocate stopping violence against women. This infuriated Edward Scissorhands, who retaliated by refusing to pay what he owed.

That’s not all. He also refused to meet the deadline to divide their properties and give Amber what she’s due, prolonging and complicating the divorce. He also called her fame-hungry and accused her of using his good name to “extend her 15 minutes of fame.” Sadly, the good name in question also appeared on posters for the box-office and critical flops, Mordecai and Lone Ranger.

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Family-related lessons we can glean from celebrity divorces

Divorce is often already a difficult time for spouses without children, so having kids in the middle makes matters especially messy. Here are a few lessons we can learn from celebrity decouplings that involved young ones.

Tip #10 Don’t complicate a divorce by making child custody difficult

Marred by allegations that Brad Pitt physically hurt his son Maddox while aboard a private plane, his divorce from Angelina Jolie got even more complicated. Understandably, as a mother, Jolie would protect her children from harm, and Pitt, who claimed innocence, would proclaim his desire for equal custody to fulfill fatherly responsibilities as part of that claim of innocence.

The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services cleared Pitt of all the abuse charges a few months after Jolie filed for divorce in September 2016, but as late as the end of 2018, the divorce settlement regarding child custody agreements and splitting of assets was still being negotiated. The time in between saw Jolie’s and Pitt’s parties flinging accusations back and forth.

For instance, on August 7, 2018, Jolie’s camp made a court filing stating that Pitt had “paid no meaningful child support.” Pitt’s party countered that 1) he loaned Angelina $8 million for her to buy a new home for her and the kids, 2) he contributed financially for the welfare of their children, and 3) Angelina never asked Brad for child support until the court filing.

Angie’s lawyer then argued that the loan is not the same as child support and that “a father of means would pay [child support expenses] voluntarily without the need for a request or court order. We are hopeful that this can be resolved without further delay or posturing.” Posturing. Ouch.

Through such tumultuous episodes, the ex-couple has been transitioning toward a custody arrangement they both agree with. As of this writing, both enjoy joint physical and legal custody of their kids, and the latter’s monitored visits with their father has been recently replaced with simple, unmonitored overnight stays.

Tip #11 Divorce isn’t the end of a family...

Just because a marriage fails doesn’t mean that parenthood must fail, too. Exes can still co-parent and live harmoniously post-divorce. Just look at Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck, for instance. After Garner stood by Affleck during the latter’s many stays in rehab, the former eventually filed for divorce. However, they allow each other to be part of the lives of their three children, with Ben purportedly consistently working hard to fight his alcohol addiction so that he can always be around for his kids.

...in fact, people can be better off as co-parenting friends than spouses

Another example of a divorce that does right by the kids is that of Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon. According to Cannon, while he and Mariah have their egos and other personality quirks (such as Carey’s bipolar status), they set those aside to put the well-being of their children first. And despite being divorced from one another, they remain on good terms and make it a point to celebrate birthdays and major holidays with their twins together.

Tip #12 Family law attorneys are important

Conscientious firms such as Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams always prioritize the well-being of children during divorce proceedings. In fact, we often recommend that couples reach divorce settlements and child custody arrangements outside of court. One of the major reasons we do this is to avoid the trauma children will most likely suffer during drawn-out legal drama.

However, other factors may be at play. If, for instance, there is even the mere suspicion of physical or emotional abuse being meted out by your ex-partner, we at Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams will find all the legal means we can to help you protect your children from harm. Or if child support payments are funding your ex-spouse’s lavish lifestyle instead of being spent on your kids, then we’ll assist you in ensuring that your children get exactly what you intend for them to have.

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If you’re looking for divorce attorneys that take family matters to heart, turn to Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams. Together, we’ll find the best path forward to achieve the best outcomes for you and your children.