Saturday, December 17, 2011

Kobe Bryant Headed for Divorce

There's bound to be a bit of schadenfreude here in New England, as we Boston Celtics fans absorb the news of the impending divorce of our nemesis Kobe Bryant out in LA. But any divorce like this one - which involves two small children, ages five and eight - should be no cause for celebration.

On the bright side, it appears that this will be handled quickly and without painful public drama.  According to both TMZ and the LA Times, Kobe's wife Vanessa signed her petition on December 1, Kobe penned his response on December 7, papers were filed with the court on December 16, and the couple has already issued a joint statement late yesterday that they have come to an agreement privately through counsel and will have their divorce judgment entered next year.

According to TMZ, Kobe has already vacated their huge Newport Coast mansion, which wife Vanessa is to keep in their deal. It is clear from the filings, as released by TMZ, that Vanessa has claimed some jewelry as her separate property (including, presumably, the multi-million dollar ring Kobe gave her after his infidelity with the Colorado woman who accused him of rape back in 2003), that they did not have a prenuptial agreement, that she is seeking spousal support, and that both have requested joint physical and legal custody of their two girls.

Even though California has tightened up its rules for prenuptial agreements (following the Barry Bonds divorce, which was thought to have been unfair to his Swedish wife), it is possible in California to waive the right to share in community property and to limit the right to spousal support in a prenuptial agreement.   But Kobe Bryant, by failing to insist upon a prenuptial agreement at the time he and Vanessa married - over ten years ago, while they were very young, at the very beginning of what would become a very successful NBA career - will thus end up sharing a lot more, in both assets and in ongoing support obligations, of his earnings with Vanessa than he would likely have been required to do.

That is because the overwhelming bulk of their assets was accumulated during the past ten years of their marriage and Kobe's tenure with the NBA.  Consequently, they will likely be splitting their assets in half as it will all be "community property" - except for the jewelry she can claim as separate property because it was a gift to her.  That could mean she would walk away with slightly more than he does (on account of these expensive gifts she listed as separate property), and then continue to collect child support and alimony which will be tied to his continued high earnings.

But given estimates of their net worth in the $200-300 million range, and many more millions to come - through Kobe's expected NBA salary of $25 million plus endorsements for the next several years - the Bryants do not need our financial sympathy.

Let's just hope the girls will be okay with their parents living in separate lavish homes. And of course, go Celtics!

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

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