Shriver/Schwarzenegger Separation: A legal perspective

Hi there,

It is always sad to see two such affable celebrities as Arnold and Maria split. They have been together for 34 years and married for 25, and thus are right in the danger zone for divorce. With the kids mainly grown and both of their careers in transition it is no surprise that they also were looking at reevaluating their marriage. I would speculate that they had (or should have had) a prenuptial agreement. Under the circumstances of the marriage (her family wealth, both of their then careers) a prenuptial would have made sense, to at least set the parameters for division of property and spousal support. Pre nuptial agreements cannot effect children’s rights so custody and child support would not have been covered in a prenuptial. If they did not have one, California is a community property state and much of their joint wealth has presumably been accumulated in the time of their marriage, and thus will be equally divided. Interestingly, once they separate their incomes become their own. At their level of wealth, the fight – if there is one – will be about values, not division. They also will not need to worry about the economics that most of us have to: health insurance, long term care insurance, life insurance and social security and retirement money.

It appears they will share custody of their youngest child. It also all appears, at least at this point, very amicable. One of the side benefits of considerable wealth is there is no need to struggle to stretch to meet the costs of 2 households. This does not however always result in a civil divorce. While the Gores appear to have managed it, this past year has been replete with stories about how the McCourts, spectacularly, did not.

They don’t need to worry as do more ordinary folk about how seriously a divorce will affect their economic picture, but the emotions will no doubt be the same. What they must deal with is the omnipresent media. Perhaps without it the marriage would have cratered sooner or perhaps they kept up a façade to facilitate his political career, but there is no doubt that they will be inundated now. Quite frankly, I am most surprised at the candid nature of the tweets and Facebook postings that are being reported for Maria. She had clearly been hinting that this was in the cards. She also is giving insight into how difficult this is for anyone divorcing. It is not just the financial changes or agreements it is the very central change in your own perception of who you are. The older the couple, the longer the marriage, the worse this disconnect can be.