On July 26, 2012, Stevie Wonder signed a petition for divorce with two of his fingerprints. After eleven years of marriage, Wonder cited “irreconcilable differences” as the reason for his divorce from wife Kai Millard Morris. Wonder and Morris have been living separately for nearly three years since October 2009. According to the divorce petition, Wonder is seeking joint custody of the couple’s two children, Kailand, 10, and Mandla, 7. From 1970 to 1972 Wonder was married to singer Syreeta Wright and is the father to a total of seven kids from both marriages and other relationships. The petition also states that Wonder agrees to pay child and spousal support.
California is a community property state. This means that all property acquired by either spouse during marriage is to be divided equally between the spouses upon divorce. These assets are called community property. Community property can only be acquired after the date of marriage but before the date of separation. The date of separation is determined by a combination of two factors. First, the spouses must be living separately and apart. Second, at least one spouse must intend not to resume the marital relationship. The court will evaluate whether a separation has occurred based on a mixture of relevant objective and subjective intentions and behaviors. Because Wonder and Morris began living separately in 2009, the first factor is satisfied. The court will next look at the actions of either party including but not limited to: whether they continued to commingle finances, celebrated anniversaries and/or romantic holidays together, and whether either party continued to perform marital duties.
Stevie Wonder amassed most of fortune before his marriage to Morris thus; Morris will not be entitled to any of these premarital earnings. All of Wonder’s earnings before marriage are separate property. Upon divorce, separate property is awarded entirely to the separate property estate. If the parties entered into a valid premarital agreement, default community property laws will not apply to asset division and Morris may be entitled to some of Wonder’s premarital earnings. Kai Morris is famous in her own right as a fashion designer. She earned notoriety from the support of the First Lady, Michelle Obama. Wonder may be entitled to a portion of Morris’ earnings acquired during the marriage, before the date of separation.
The issue of child custody will be decided by the court under the guidance of the best interest of the child standard. Unless the court is presented evidence that either parent is somehow unfit, Wonder’s request for joint custody will likely be granted. The parties may reach an independent agreement regarding child custody and avoid a divorce trial.
Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only lawyer in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.