What We Can Learn from the Top 10 Celebrity Divorces of 2010

February 14, 2011 by  
Filed under Divorce

Do celebrity divorces provide entertainment? Yes, but maybe we can learn something from them too.

Courteney Cox and David Arquette
Courteney Cox and David Arquette are in a trial separation and contemplating divorce.  They say they have “grown apart” during their marriage and that was confirmed when we all heard David talking about his sex life on Howard Stern’s radio show.  Honesty is a virtue, but one’s new single sex life is better left unsaid if you hope to reunite with your ex.  To David’s credit, he tweeted an apology.  Could the impetus of the separation have been California’s divorce law, which likely would increase Courteney’s spousal support obligation at the 10-year point?

Lesson:  Keep your single sex life to yourself during your trial separation.

Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren
Some couples can rebuild trust in their marriage and heal from an instance (or two) of infidelity.  Tiger Woods’ obsessive interest in sex outside the marriage turned out to be fatal to his marriage with Elin Nordegren. 

They conducted their divorce, however with great dignity and relative civility (except for the golf club incident, which was totally understandable).  And Tiger’s attempt toward self-improvement included a treatment facility to try to cure his sex addiction.  Few divorcing people own up to their own deficits and act responsibly so we offer our best to Tiger and Elin for showing people the way to a dignified divorce under extenuating circumstances.

Lesson:  A marriage can survive a single affair if there’s a great commitment of patience and forgiveness.  A marriage will rarely survive multiple affairs.  In the case of sex addiction, probably best to end it with dignity.

Jennifer Jason Leigh and Noah Baumbach
Sometimes when complicated people get married they have, well, complicated marriages.  Leigh and Baumbach are that kind of couple as seen through Leigh’s acting persona and Baumbach’s writing.  Their 5 year marriage has come to an end, with an infant son born just seven months ago.

Both Baumbach and Leigh came from artistic families with great professional success.   They share something else in common which is a family history of divorce.  Leigh’s parents divorced when she was two years old and Baumbach’s when he was a teenager.  In fact, his breakout film, “The Squid and the Whale” (2005) was based on memories of his parents’ breakup.    While some children of divorce work harder, others follow their parents’ pattern and cannot achieve a high level of commitment.

Hopefully Baumbach and Leigh’s professional collaboration, which included “Margot at the Wedding” (2007) and “Greenberg” (2010), will survive the demise of their marriage.

Lesson:  Know your risk factors.  Two artistic and career-focused people from divorced childhoods will probably need to work harder on their marriage than the average couple.

Al and Tipper Gore
Al and Tipper Gore announced that they were getting divorced after 40 years of marriage, citing a divergence of paths.   Since meeting in high school, they persevered through the near fatal car accident of their son in 1989, Tipper’s clinical depression, 8 years of vice-presidency, a court-decided loss of the 2000 presidency, and Al’s rebound on the world stage as an environmental activist.  Did their previous common purpose in times of struggle become weaker after the challenge had gone?

Lesson:  People change over time.  Sometimes a deep sense of common purpose is required to make a marriage last over decades.

Frank and Jamie McCourt
The McCourts’ divorce was widely reported this year, due to litigation involving a postnuptial agreement signed in 2004.  The couple was married 30 years and has 4 grown sons.  After their purchase of the Los Angeles Dodgers and their move to Los Angeles, the marriage unraveled, at least partly due to the bungled postnup,  which was identified as a problem when they went to an estate planner to develop a joint estate plan in 2008.

Postnups can be very helpful to mature marriages, by addressing and clarifying financial issues.  This one was not, and caused many  problems.  It may have caused the end of the marriage, while running over $20 million in legal fees, making it one of the most expensive divorce lawsuits in California history.

Lesson:  Anyone considering a postnup can learn from the McCourts’ mistakes by working out an agreement that preserves and strengthens the marriage, rather than weakening it.

Cameron Crow and Nancy Wilson
Cameron Crowe and Nancy Wilson divorced after a 24-year marriage.   Like Robin Williams and his wife, Marcia Garces, they chose to end their marriage through a process called a collaborative divorce, pledging to be “honest, cooperative and respectful” and to put their children’s interests first.

Cameron and Wilson worked out all issues (including joint custody and spousal support) through face-to-face meetings with their attorneys and themselves.  As part of the process, they agreed not to litigate using their current attorneys.  This gave the Cameron and Wilson benefit of legal counsel and a safe place to work out the terms of their divorce, in private.  This can only help their 10-year-old twins while they grow up with divorced co-parents.

Lesson:  If you’re going to split, do it respectfully and avoid litigation if at all possible.

Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt
Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt’s marriage was reported to be on the rocks and their lives became a reality show until the divorce announcement turned out to be a hoax.   Apparently the “divorce” was merely a publicity stunt to restart her career.

Heidi and Spencer are both very young. (Heidi was born in ‘86 and Spencer in ’83.)    Their wedding ceremony was in Mexico with no family members present and lasted 15 minutes.

No doubt,  Heidi and Spencer do have some marital problems.  Spencer is a self-identified “fame whore” who wants any kind of press, even negative while Heidi doesn’t like bad press.

Lesson:  During the hoax, Spencer stated his love for fame and her love for puppies were incompatible.  As a divorce lawyer, I thought I heard just about every reason for divorce, but apparently, not this one.  There are no lessons to be learned here.

Scarlett Johansson and Ryan Reynolds
Ever heard of the saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder”?  Don’t believe it when it comes to marriage.

The Johannson/Reynolds marriage has ended after just two years.  It has been blamed on their conflicting work schedules with much business travel.  The spark is extinguished (for now), but, according to them, they remain best friends.  Both appear poised for a rebound.  They are young and beautiful and every first-timer has the right to a “marriage mulligan”, don‘t they?

Lesson:  If you consistently put your career before marriage, you are not helping your odds of a long-term successful marriage.

Kelsey and Camille Grammer
The demise of the Grammers’ 13-year marriage came after Kelsey spent time in New York City for a gig as Georges in the play “Cage Aux Folles”.  Kelsey seemed to enjoy the single life and did not want to return to his marriage, which was apparently already in trouble.  Would it have lasted had he stayed in L.A.?

Lesson:  Again, a heavy work schedule involving lots of travel is not the recipe for marital success.  Sometimes work does need to come first, but be aware of the marital strain you are creating.

Billy Ray Cyrus and Tish Cyrus (parents of Miley Cyrus)
After 17 years of marriage and 5 children, the famous parents of the “Hannah Montana” star have filed for divorce.  The gossip rags claim it was jealousy over Billy Ray’s “Achy Breaky Heart” groupies but perhaps more insightful is this 2004 quote from Billy: “You know what, this train may come off the tracks, but I’m going to be a dad. I’m going to be a husband, and try to have something in my life that is right.”  It sounds like he’s had doubts all along.

Lesson:  Part of marriage success is the simple fact of believing in the marriage.  If you want your marriage to success, you have to ignore the short-term distractions of groupies, fame, and money.

© 2011 Laurie Israel.

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