From Hollywood To Your Divorce

Seems like this is the latest buzz of the week, we thought you should check it out and see if this can happen to you.

By Daniel E. Clement, Esq.

Celebrity divorces are great teaching tools. High-profile divorces present the same issues as non-celebrity divorces, just with bigger numbers and a lot more tabloid coverage.

The Huffington Post is reporting that the husband of actress Kaley Cuoco is seeking spousal maintenance and an award of counsel fees as part of the divorce. This should not be a surprise.

While this case, I imagine, will be decided by California law, if this case was New York case, the husband would have a legitimate maintenance claim, particularly if the new and soon to be effective New York maintenance guidelines were applied.

As reported in the Huffington Post, the couple was married for two years. A google search reveals Kaley Cuoco earns one million dollars per episode for starring in the Big Bang Theory. I cannot find her husband. Ryan Sweeting, a professional tennis player’s earnings. For illustrative purposes, I will assume she makes, $26,000,000 and he earns $100,000.

Since the couple did not have children, maintenance would be calculated by applying the following formulas; the lower result would presumptively be the correct amount of maintenance to be paid:

a. 30% of the payor’s income minus 20% of the maintenance payee’s income or
b. the sum of the combined income x 40% minus the maintenance payee’s income.

The law further provides that Ms. Cuoco’s income should be capped at $175,000, although a New York divorce court has the discretion to apply the guidelines to income in excess of the $175,000 cap. It would be safe to assume that since her income exceeds the cap by nearly $26,000,000, the court will certainly apply the guidelines to some portion of her income in excess of the cap; how much more is an issue to be litigated.

At a minimum, applying the maintenance formula, Sweeting should expect to receive at least $2,708.33 per month in maintenance. ($32,500 per year calculated as follows: (.3 x 175,000) - (.2 x 100,000)= $32,500 which is less than 275,000 x .4=110,000.)

One the other hand, the couple enjoyed a very short marriage. Since the parties were only married for 2 years, maintenance should be paid for 3-7 months; the maintenance guidelines provide that for marriages of less than 15 years, the duration of maintenance awarded should be 15% to 30% of the length of the marriage.

Clearly, this is an extreme case and a court could entertain a full lifestyle analysis to determine the correct amount of maintenance. For the two years of the marriage, Sweeting experienced a lifestyle well above his income as a tennis player. But again, this was an extremely short marriage. Expect a deal to be made.

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