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Lessons Learned from High-Profile Divorces


On June 26, 2020, singer-turned-talk show host Kelly Clarkson won a Daytime Emmy for the Kelly Clarkson Show. That day, she sent two tweets: one thanking her crew, and one thanking Brandon Blackstock for believing in her. In the normal course of a day this might not seem like much, but Kelly Clarkson filed for divorce from Brandon Blackstock on June 4, 2020.

In the initial days after the divorce, there was much speculation but not much revelation. Plenty of unnamed sources weighed in on why Clarkson filed – was it quarantineWas it depression? Had Clarkson been dropping hints for months? – but Clarkson and Blackstock have remained quiet on the reasons. They have not spoken to reporters, nor posted anything on Twitter or Instagram related to their divorce.

Now contrast this story with that of Jay Cutler’s divorce from Kristin Cavallari. There was a tremendous amount of he said/she said narratives, with both parties giving interviews to different outlets. What was one of the most trying times in their lives was laid out before the public, and people ate it up.

There are lessons to be learned here for high-profile couples. Athletes, entertainers, business people: no matter how you built your brand or your wealth, once you are in the public eye it can be a real challenge to preserve any type of privacy – even in the midst of a deeply personal event like a divorce. So today, I want to look at some of the lessons there are to be learned from these high-profile cases.

Remain unified in the public eye

When actress Gwyneth Paltrow and singer Chris Martin divorced years ago, they released a statement that was unified and honest, and introduced us all to the phrase “conscious uncoupling.” The same was true for other celebrity couples, such as Anna Faris and Chris Pratt. It may seem impossible in those moments to remain unified, but it is critically important that you remain in control of your own narrative. If you are going to make any public statements about your relationship or the pending divorce, do so together and with a common message. This goes for talking to the press and posting on social media. If at all possible, refrain from discussing the divorce publicly; if you have to address it, keep your statements short, sweet, and on-message.

Work with a team who can protect you

As a public figure, you should know by now that a PR team makes a world of difference when being interviewed. They can also help you craft statements to the press or to publish on social media regarding your separation or divorce. You want to ensure that your statements are succinct and do not provide too much information into your life.

But you will need more than just one person to help you; you will need a team which can and will work to protect you, your children, your brand, your wealth, and your  assets. You are going to need your manager, your business attorney, your divorce attorney, your financial planners and advisors, and anyone else who has a hand in your business to help you. This help can include:

  • Creating statements that are approved for publications
  • Ensuring that there is confidentiality language in any separation agreement
  • Crafting temporary agreements to protect your interests while the process is ongoing
  • Reviewing all social media posts regardless of content
  • Planning to protect assets and accumulated wealth from different sources
  • Scheduling counseling sessions for the family to develop coping mechanisms for dealing with the added scrutiny during a difficult time

When you are a professional athlete or celebrity you are always in the spotlight. It doesn’t matter if you are in-season or in the  off-season; there is always someone with eyes on what you are doing on social media or out in public. This is why it is critical that you have a full team of professionals who can help.

Always, always have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement

In late June, Nicole Young – wife of Andre Young, better known as Dr. Dre – filed for divorce after 24 years of marriage. The couple reportedly does not have a prenuptial agreement, and Dr. Dre is worth around $800 million. Nicole Young, who is an attorney herself, is seeking spousal support Young could be entitled to a significant amount of money, and for an extended period of time.

Athletes get divorced at a much higher rate than other public figures, and at significantly higher rates than the general public does, which makes it even more important to have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. If you have recently proposed to your significant other, it’s time to consider having a prenuptial agreement in place by speaking to a family law who specializes in working with athletes and entertainers. A prenuptial or postnuptial agreement outlines how assets are to be divided or protected should your marriage end in divorce, but it can also protect you during the proceedings by allotting for a certain amount of spousal support (so you don’t end up paying more than your should), ensuring health coverage, and outlining living situations. What they cannot do, however, is address child support or parenting and custody issues; it is against public policy to do so. If you have not signed a prenuptial and you are already married, it is time to sign a postnuptial agreement.

Remember: what you say can – and will – be used against you later

Let’s circle back to Kelly Clarkson for a moment. Over the years, Clarkson has been very vocal about Blackstock’s role as a father and supportive husband. This is reinforced in her June 27, 2020 tweet, thanking him for believing in her.

Why does this matter? Because if Clarkson had attempted to fight for full custody of her children, Blackstock’s lawyers would certainly use the public record of her comments against her. (For the record, she appears to have filed under “irreconcilable differences,” and is seeking joint custody.)

Using social media posts to support a client’s case is par for the course in divorce proceedings. Keep it in the back of your mind that anything you say regarding your relationship can be used against you at a later date in court. For example, if you praise your spouse for running the household and caring for the children while you are on the road much of the year during the sports schedule, it will be hard to claim that your spouse doesn’t contribute to parenting responsibilities.

Filing for divorce can be hard on professional athletes. The team from Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein, LLP can help smooth the transition, and protect your best interests. Contact Manhattan divorce attorney Evan Schein today by calling (212) 466-6015 or completing our contact form. Our offices are located on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, in White Plains, and in Hackensack, New Jersey.