Vanessa Bryant’s Strategic Divorce Move

Superstar basketball player Kobe Bryant is splitting with his wife Vanessa. On December 1, 2011, Vanessa filed a divorce petition in the Superior Court of California in the County of Orange. Like many other rich and famous celebrities, Kobe and Vanessa Bryant did NOT sign a premarital agreement. The Bryants have released a statement revealing that the couple has settled all relevant issues privately including: custody, visitation, property, and support. A judgment will be entered in 2012.

The couple has two young children Natalia, 8, and Giana, 5. Both Kobe and Vanessa are asking for joint custody of their daughters. According to the filing, the couple will share both legal and physical custody. It seems like Kobe and Vanessa will not litigate any issues in their divorce.

Ironically, the couple celebrated their 10-year wedding anniversary on April 18, 2011. In 2004, Kobe was accused of sexually assaulting a woman in Colorado. Throughout the entire investigation and trial, Vanessa stood by his side and supported the position that the alleged sexual assault was consensual. Vanessa admitted that Kobe made a mistake by committing adultery but refused to acknowledge any more of the woman’s claims. Rumors have surfaced that Vanessa saw divorce lawyers and almost served Kobe with divorce papers in 2004. A source close to the couple commented: “Vanessa almost threw in the towel four years ago. Kobe always had a slew of girlfriends, and the cheating was almost blatant.”

Despite Kobe’s public (alleged) infidelity that continued into the years following 2004, Vanessa stayed in her marriage before suddenly filing for divorce in 2011. Vanessa was likely counseled in 2004 regarding the likely outcomes of a potential divorce case and her options. Under California law, a marriage of 10 years or more is a presumptively a long-term marriage. Having a long-term marriage entitled Vanessa to many advantages in a divorce proceeding. California Family Code section 4320 lists the factors a court may consider in awarding spousal support. Under section 4320(l) the goal of the court shall be that the supported party shall be self-supporting within a reasonable period of time EXCEPT in the case of a long-term marriage. If the marriage is not long-term, a “reasonable period of time” is generally one-half the length of the marriage. Therefore, if Vanessa had filed for divorce in 2004 she would likely be awarded spousal support for around 3 years. Now that the 10-year mark has passed, Vanessa may be entitled to permanent spousal support.

If a spouse wishes to fight the length of a marriage and has an argument that the marriage was in fact short-term it is important to consider the date of separation. On Vanessa’s divorce petition she did not list a date of separation. A couple that separates for a period of time before filing for divorce will in fact stop the clock on the time period of their marriage. The date of marriage and the date of separation will determine the length of the marriage for purposes of spousal support.

Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding custody. San Diego Family Law Attorney Nancy J. Bickford is the only board-certified divorce lawyer in San Diego who also holds an MBA and a CPA. 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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