Episode 188 Amicable Divorce Expert podcast Celebrity Divorce: Kelly Clarkson & Brandon Blackstock on Amicable Co-Parenting, Women Out-earning Men, Child & Spousal Support
Kind of lost on whether Kelly Clarkson and Brandon Blackstock are actually divorced yet, but the good news is that they are at least back to amicable co-parenting on the Montana ranch. The ranch was in the settlement dispute and awarded to Kelly as her separate property..
The topics I discussed on this episode are:
- Amicable co-parenting post litigation
- The Difficulties in a relationship when the woman out earns the man
- Spousal Support vs Child Support
The reason why it’s hard to amicably co-parent while in the middle of a contentious divorce is because the couple is going through the emotions of the divorce while addressing legal decisions; custody, child support, the co-parenting schedule are part of the legal divorce. Emotions and legal don’t go together. It’s always good to pause the divorce until the emotions are settled. Only then can good decisions be made for the settlement agreement, and the mind can be free of negative emotions so that productive parenting/co-parenting can be attained.
Once time has gone by to soothe and calm the emotions, some grieving and reckoning done to be able to grow from the divorce, amicable co-parenting and other financial decisions can be made well. The importance of amicable co-parenting should be obvious: Parents are damaging their children by setting them up to take sides, to come in and be the parent by trying to soothe their crying or upset parent, by acting as messengers because their parents don’t talk, or by engaging in parental alienation in order to help the parent they think has been hurt the most. Parents either can’t be amicable co-parents if they’re fighting in court, or they don’t know what amicable is. Children are enormously damaged in the process.
There are issues in a divorce settlement, when the woman out earns the man, that can be different than when the man out earns the woman. Most high net worth women completely resist the idea that they might have to pay spousal support; it becomes a gender and culture issue, when spousal support is a legal issue. Although women want and should make a much as they can, when it comes to assuming the responsibility in a divorce of being the payor of spousal support/alimoney, most women refer to the gender roles that preceded the woman’s movement as their argument to avoid paying support to their husbands; this is, of course, if there are no adverse reasons why the husband wasn’t earning up to his potential or as much as their wives. I’ve often heard women say to their husbands, “Really, you want me to pay you spousal support? You’re a man. You shouldn’t be asking for it!” That doesn’t fly in court, or in the new culture that women should be equal to men in their earning capacity. Well, it’s that way in the spending capacity when it comes to spousal maintenance.
In many celebrity divorces, when the woman is the performer and is in the position of out earning their husbands, even though their husbands may make a very respectable living, the husbands quite often ask for much more than the law allows, citing the enormous financial success of their wives as the reason why their wives should divide property that isn’t community in nature, or ask for more than half of an asset. My take on this is ego, culture and gender expectations. The male ego has a tough time being married to a public figure who has more money than they do when incomes are exposed through a divorce filing. The cultural norm of men earning more is flipped and out in the public eye. And possibly the enjoyment of living a more lavish lifestyle will come to an end when they are living on their own earnings.
Our culture still looks at men out earning women as the norm. What men should understand in a high net worth divorce settlement if their wives out earn them is that it diminishes them if they ask for more than the law allows, knowing that what they’re asking for is extreme. It diminishes women, too, when they reach for the sky when they know the sky has a limit. Emotions can drive people to say, “I’ll take you for everything!” No one gets everything. There is no state that allows one person to have everything and the other to leave with nothing. A bad Judge can definitely do damage if the Judge comes to the bench with prejudices, but decisions can be overturned. Divorce wasn’t designed to hurt one person over the other. Divorce law was designed to equalize the ending of the marriage contract.
In California, where I live and work, spousal support is meant to equalize the standard of living for both men and women. Our divorce laws weren’t designed to favor one gender over the other, except for child custody years ago when it was expected that mom would get more time than dad because dad has to work. Divorce takes places for different reasons, and California is a no-fault divorce state, so when a marriage a divorce is filed, the state looks at the divorce as the ending of a financial contract. In the resolution of this financial contract, the state attempts to equalize the standard of living of each spouse going forward through spousal support.
Spousal support, or alimony as it’s called in other states, looks at many factors in order to establish that it’s granted, the amount to be awarded, and the length of time for it to be paid. There are nuances to awarding spousal support if the decision is for a Judge to make; it’s not as simple as people think. In my mediations I explain that assuming how a judge will decide is a recipe for disaster. There may be no spousal support granted at all in a very high net worth divorce because the settlement may be so high that there is no need for more money to be given to the assumed recipient.
Child support is different than spousal support. There is no cap to income upon which child support can be based. Child support in California pays for food, shelter, and clothing for the children. It’s easy to use up the monthly support money on the children, which should help the payor understand than in a mid-income family, the recipient doesn’t have an excess of child support money to justify using it on themselves for personal luxury expenses.
Understanding the law and working within the law can bring down the volume on a contentious divorce enough so to spend less on legal fees, and use less emotion on arguments, enabling parents to get back to the business of co-parenting.
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