Every time there’s a news story about the divorce/custody battles of rich people, the Twitterverse explodes, with people complaining like their own pockets just got hit. Reports that Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt will have to pay his estranged wife $637,000 in temporary spousal support sparked all kinds of outrage. On Twitter, one man said, “I just don’t think you should get married if you can lose more than a 3rd world country in the divorce.” Women, too, wondered if the prospect of going broke in divorce justifies delaying or avoiding marriage.
Get a grip, people.
I’ve been married. I’ve been divorced. And I lost a whole lot of money in the process. But the money didn’t go to my ex. It went to our lawyers (both of whom I had to pay). It went to the lawyers because instead of accepting a reasonable settlement offer, my ex went looking for one of those huge celebrity paydays and wound up with next to nothing.
Anyone who is afraid to get married because of a celebrity divorce, or who expects their own divorce settlement will be like winning MegaMillions, is delusional. The following facts may help you get over your fears or fantasies:
1. You’re probably not rich, and you’re probably not married to a rich person. Accordingly, it’s unlikely you’d emerge from a divorce either super rich or financially devastated. My marriage was coyote ugly, and I would have gnawed off an arm and a leg if that’s what it took to free myself. Still, if we’d been able to settle, we both would have wound up better off. Hopefully, your marriage won’t end in divorce, but if it does, divorce will cost a lot less, financially and emotionally, if neither party makes unreasonable and unrealistic demands.
2. Child support and spousal support are not the same. Child support is awarded to help take care of the children’s needs. Awards are made based on complex formulas that vary state-to-state, but that generally take each spouse’s then-current income and expenses into account. The fact that Kelis may have sold a bunch of records 5 years ago is irrelevant to her current income and her child’s current needs.
3. Spousal support is where “big payback” fantasies go to die. Spousal support is awarded to help take care of the needs of the spouse. It is awarded most often in cases where a spouse has suspended his or her own career to support the career of the primary wage earner. That’s probably not you. If both spouses are working and earn enough to sustain themselves, it’s unlikely spousal support would be awarded to the lower wage-earner.
Jamie McCourt’s job was being the wife of a rich baseball team owner. She helped her husband maintain a certain community profile and image–including by being a non-working spouse. As a result, she has every right to expect him to contribute towards her living expenses until the divorce judgment is final.
4. Rich people have expenses you can’t imagine. Perhaps you think Kelis should be shopping for her child at The Children’s Place. Maybe you think Jamie McCourt should move into a West Hollywood day rate motel until she can get a job at Hooters. That’s what you’d do, right?
That’s why you’re not rich.
If a person’s net worth eclipses the GDP of a third world country, he’s expecting to have to shell out some dough to his soon-to-be ex. News reports mention that Jamie McCourt originally sought $1 million per month in spousal support. What’s really telling is that Frank McCourt offered her $150,000/month—nearly $100,000 more than the Kelis child support award that had people up in arms. Truly rich? Nas and Kelis aren’t even close. If Frank McCourt could afford to offer $150K/month, another $500K/month probably isn’t going to bankrupt him.
5. For the benefit of the person who tweeted “The chick isn’t even hot” in reference to Jamie McCourt’s support award: hotness is not a factor considered by any court in entering an award of child or spousal support. If it were, every star male athlete, actor and entertainer would be vying to marry the ugliest woman on the planet.
6. A pre-nup is unnecessary if you don’t have shyt to begin with.
So the next time you find yourself worried about the latest celebrity divorce payout, remember—unless you’re the celebrity in question, it’s just gossip to you.