Schwarzenegger Case Illustrates Issues of Marital Property, Child Custody, Alimony in San Diego Divorces

June 9, 2011

FOX News and other media outlets continue to report that the divorce of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver could be among the most expensive celebrity splits on record.

Some estimates say Shriver could get more than the $100 million Tiger Wood's ex-wife Elin Nordegren received.
1164099_couple_in_love_5.jpg
Division of marital property in a San Diego divorce, or a divorce elsewhere in California, is supposed to be equal under the state's no-fault divorce law. In practice, one party to a divorce can end up with significantly more than half the assets for a number of reasons.

What constitutes community property is one potential area of contention. Property owned before marriage and inheritance to one spouse are both examples of separate property. Valuating community property is another area where a San Diego divorce lawyer will focus attention. For instance, is the marital home valued at current market value? After the economic downturn, a couple's primary residence is often a liability -- with more owed on an upside down mortgage than the property could bring at sale.

With Schwarzenegger and Shriver, there are more complications -- and more assets -- than in many marriages -- even celebrity marriages. And, with allegations about Arnold's infidelity continuing to surface, he may find an unsympathetic judge on the bench. And, with four children and the majority of the earning power, several media outlets have reported child support and alimony could easily top $100,000 a month.

Typical couples should understand the tax implications of alimony and child support as there may be opportunities to move money in one direction or the other. Alimony is treated as taxable income for the receiver and as a tax deduction for the payer. Child support is tax free for the recipient but not deductible for the payer. One caveat to keep in mind: Courts are much better about helping you collect back child support than they are about assisting with the collections of back spousal support.

In the case of Schwarzenegger and Shriver, their marriage will be seen as long-term under California law, which means she may collect alimony for an indefinite period of time. A short-term marriage is defined as one lasting under 10 years, which is in part why it's not uncommon to see celebrity couples split near the 10-year mark.

Other factors worth considering in this split is Arnold's future income from motion pictures -- particularly sequels to movies made during the marriage. The New York Post reported last year that Diandra Douglas -- the ex-wife of Michael Douglas -- moved to collect on his payday for the making of "Wall Street 2," claiming her divorce agreement entitled her to a portion of the proceeds.

For most couples, similar concerns often involve retirement accounts or the earning power of an advanced degree -- such as a medical degree or law degree -- earned during the marriage.

If you need to speak to a divorce lawyer in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, or the San Diego area, call Nancy J. Bickford at 858-793-8884 or contact us through this website.