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CAREFUL: DIVORCE RECORDS PUBLIC RECORD (OR SHOULD ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER HAVE USED MEDIATION?)

Maria Shriver’s divorce from former California Governor Schwarzenegger has dropped off the publicity radar recently, largely because of reports that the couple is getting along and settling amicably. But the breakup got off to a rocky start, marred by bad publicity following Schwarzenegger’s response in court, a response initially denying Shriver’s request for spousal support and attorney’s fees.

Noted for keeping celebrity cases out of the press, Robert Kauffman, Schwarzenegger’ attorney, seemed unable to keep prying eyes from reading the response, a 2-page court form that essentially acts as a place holder for a responding party’s position.  I have not read the response, but I would assume that Kauffman checked the box denying the allegation of need for spousal support, an action every family lawyer will routinely take.  Yes, this means that Schwarzenegger’s “official” position was that spousal support would be denied, but I don’t think either Kauffman or Maria Shriver’s attorney, Los Angeles Lawyer-to-the-stars Laura Wasserman, would ever have seriously contended that there should be no award of spousal support.

The problem for Schwarzenegger and Shriver is that divorce cases are argued in a public forum, a battle theater to which the press has complete access.  Eager to sell papers, reporters jumped on this ordinary family law filing to claim that the dastardly Schwarzenegger was denying support, an allegation that was likely never true.

The  truth is that Schwarzenegger is likely desperate to maintain his public image as one of Hollywood’s nice guys, and hence he will be offering in excess of what a California judge would likely award.

Had I been approached by either party to this case, I would have extolled mediation as a way to keep the case private, and likewise to consider the interests of all involved.  As the couple is likely agreeing to joint custody of their 3 children, it would appear that the lawyers have considered many of these interests.  But at $750.00 per hour for Ms. Wasserman alone, I’m certain that mediation would have saved the couple tens of thousands of dollars, had they sought a mediator as soon as the breakup became inevitable.  And, they likely could have prevented the publicity damage caused when reporters read Schwarzenegger’s response to Shriver’s petition.

The lesson here is that mediation is the best, most confidential way to resolve divorce cases, even if you are among the super rich and super famous.  Until next time I remain …

Very truly yours,

Thomas D. Ferreira, Esq.

Disclaimer: Thomas D. Ferreira is an attorney licensed only in the State of California. The information set forth in this blog or on our websites are not intended to create an attorney-client relationship, nor are they intended as legal advice on your specific matter. This information is not intended to apply to cases or jurisdictions outside the State of California, and those viewing this information outside of California, or having business before jurisdictions outside of California, should consult a local professional or lawyer. The information in this blog is not a substitute for the advice of competent counsel, and is not intended, nor should it be construed, as a guarantee, warranty or prediction regarding the results of your legal matter.

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