It seems like every day we hear of some Hollywood A-lister who is going through yet another divorce. In fact, it happens so often, it has become cliche'. Most of us in the "real world" feel completely disconnected from celebrities. That may be true for the most part, but I think there are lessons to be learned by looking at these divorces and I am going to try to lay some of those lessons out for your reading pleasure.
The celebrity divorce that sparked this blog entry was that of Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson and his wife of about six weeks. Click here for a news article discussing their situation.
In no particular order, here are some lessons that I believe we can all learn from these high profile divorces:
1. Don't ever fall into the trap of domestic violence.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, get out. Every married couple fights. If these fights regularly involve physical intimidation or violence, you need to get away. If your spouse promises to change, remain separated as that spouse seeks treatment for anger management or violence. Return to the house slowly, giving that partner an opportunity to prove that they have changed. Keep in mind that this type of behavior escalates, it doesn't get better on its own.
2. Take marriage seriously.
What I mean here is this: don't enter into marriage lightly, with the thought that if it doesn't work out I'll just get a divorce. Expect to have problems. Plan to work out those problems - no matter what. The issues that I hear about from clients most are money, children, housing, and infidelity. Under most circumstances, the first thing that I recommend to someone wanting to consult for a divorce is to get marriage counseling.
3. Don't publicly discuss your marital problems.
This is a big issue with celebrities. Because they live in a manner that is constantly under scrutiny, it is difficult to keep problems and disagreements private. However, with the advent of social networking like Facebook and Twitter, "regular" people are more often living in the public eye. Don't disparage your spouse on social media. Nothing good can come of dragging your spouse through the mud on Facebook. These posts will only be used against you when the case goes to court and it could even affect the determination of child custody!! It isn't worth losing custody of your children just to berate your spouse on Facebook.
4. Don't commit adultery.
One of the most common things that I see out of Hollywood celebrities is an open flaunting of adultery or infidelity. Not only is it morally reprehensible and hurtful to your spouse, it will most certainly cause you to be the biggest loser in a divorce. Property settlements in a divorce are usually 50/50 splits when the partners are both either equally responsible for the divorce or equally innocent. However, when one partner can show that the other has been unfaithful, the property split will favor the spouse who was not unfaithful.
5. Don't try to represent yourself in a contested divorce.
You may not think that you can afford to hire an attorney, but you may find out that you can't afford to not hire one. Unfortunately, many people begin the process by representing themselves and then hire an attorney when things get too complicated. Often, it is more expensive for me to try to get a client out of a mess they created this way than it would have been to represent them from the beginning.