Spice Girls Divorce and the Effect of Domestic Violence on Spousal Support

pexels-photo-170894Yes, even Spice Girls get divorced just like any one of us. In March 2017, former Spice Girl Mel B, perhaps better known as “Scary Spice” or as a current judge on America’s Got Talent, filed for divorce from her husband of 10 years, Stephen Belafonte.

Mel B, worth a reported $60 million, filed for divorce in a Los Angeles Superior Court after she and Belafonte separated in December 2016. While Mel B’s nickname might have been “Scary,” it seems as though her marriage to Belafonte was in fact scary, as she filed for a restraining order against him shortly after filing for divorce. It appears that she had been covering up injuries from abuse from Belafonte for years. And, while Mel B’s petition reportedly requests joint custody of the couple’s daughter, it also requests that the Court to deny spousal support to Belafonte.

While we do not know much about Belafonte’s career as a movie producer and his earnings, it is almost without question that Mel B earns and is worth significantly more than he is. Many outlets report that Belafonte put his career on the backburner while Mel B was busy working and he supported her career. In a typical situation with these facts, it would be nearly impossible for Mel B to get out of having to pay spousal support to her lower-income-earning spouse.

However, this case is not necessarily typical and the restraining order may be a critical component of Mel B’s attempt to get out of paying spousal support to Belafonte. In making spousal support order, the California Courts are required to look to the factors set forth in Family Code section 4320 (“4320 factors”). The 4320 factors vary widely from each party’s earning capacity to the tax consequences of spousal support orders to each party. Most importantly here are the factors related to domestic violence.

Specifically, section 4320(i) states that the Court must consider:

“Documented evidence of any history of domestic violence, as defined in Section 6211, between the parties, including, but not limited to, consideration of emotional distress resulting from domestic violence perpetrated against the supported party by the supporting party, and consideration of any history of violence against the supporting party by the supported party”

Section 4320(m) states that the Court must consider:

“The criminal conviction of an abusive spouse shall be considered in making a reduction or elimination of a spousal support award in accordance with Section 4324.5 or4325

When the Court looks to those factors, it may very well find a reason not to award support to Belafonte. Each case is different and the courts have a lot of discretion in making spousal support orders. Even section 4320 itself states that courts can look to “any other factors the court determines are just and equitable.” If you are facing a divorce, and are either the high-earning or low-earning spouse, it is important that you consult with a family law attorney to better understand your rights and/or obligations regarding support.

Feel free to contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding property division and support. Nancy J. Bickford is the only Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) in San Diego County who is also a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.

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