My two cents on the Kelly Clarkson divorce and Will Smith/Chris Rock incident. Or, in the alternative, What Hollywood can learn from the divorce industry and vice versa.
I love analyzing celebrity mis-steps, especially in terms of their generally nasty divorces. But I also love seeing what they do right. One recent divorce that stands out is Kelly Clarkson’s. For those who don’t know her, she was the first winner of American Idol and has had possibly the most successful career following her win. This one may stand out for surprising reasons. It is not the child support settlement that Kelly was ordered to pay her former husband ($45,000 per month). Not surprising for high income earners, except for the fact that the children reside with Kelly! It wasn’t the spousal support either. That award was in excess of $100,000 per month! For a seven year marriage!
No, Kelly’s piece de resistance was the simple fact that she finally settled the divorce after two years, albeit for these enormous sums. (She also agreed to give him several pieces of property and over $1 million). While some may applaud the settlement reached by her husband, I am impressed that she found the courage to settle it and extricate her family from the chaos and misery of a divorce. Albeit, by all definitions, for an exorbitant sum.
Why would I applaud a deplorable settlement as such? Because of the simple fact that Kelly was willing to settle for this amount. Her divorce was very contentious. It commenced in 2020 and her children are young enough, they won’t remember any time before the divorce and separation of their parents. Their lives were defined by it.
But what makes Kelly’s settlement remarkable is that she was willing to pay an embarrassingly high amount to end it. Her former husband wanted money. It was evident is his astronomical demands for over $400,000 per month in support. He wanted the Montana home, that he had agreed in writing was Kelly’s. And most importantly, he wanted their children. Mostly because that was what she wanted more the most.
Kelly has money. What she did not have was primary custody of her children and a quick divorce from this cad. So, to get what she wanted, she was willing to over-pay for the right to care for her children in her home in California. And for an end to the drama.
And sometimes I recommend this route. I have many clients that tell me they would rather pay me, than give their former spouse anything. I get that. There is hurt and betrayal and rights and wrongs, that I will never completely understand. I fight for these clients and make a lot of money doing so.
But, I also enjoy the ones that ask, what do they have to pay to get out. Not everyone has this option, but when you do, try using it. Or give something other than cash. Sometimes, this is what I recommend for my clients. Occasionally offering the other side an abundance of cash or a piece of property they wouldn’t normally retain, can get you exactly what you want. I sometimes think people underestimate the value of this type of offer for fear of looking weak or the embarrassment of reaching a bad settlement.
To the contrary, I think such settlements can benefit the family by ending the drama and chaos and allowing the family to move on. Kelly got what she wanted. And she gave what she had in abundance. A perfect settlement.
Now you may ask what does the Will Smith/Chris Rock incident have to do with divorce law? It’s more in how I would like to see that saga to play out.
For those who live in a cave, during the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday, March 27th, Chris Rock, who was presenting, made a remark about Will Smith’s wife’s lack of hair. Mr. Rock may or may not have known about Mrs. Smith’s struggles with hair loss. In any event, after hearing the comments, Will Smith walked onto the stage and hit Chris Rock in the face.
Chris Rock has every right to press charges, to sue Will Smith for damages and to openly disparage him. He has the right to end his career. But what if Mr. Rock and his teaam instead, decided to meet privately with Mr. Smith and his team. What if , after talks, they could emerge with a joint statement whereby each party shared a modicum of blame. What if Mr. Rock could issue an apology for his years of derisive comments and in turn Mr. Smith could issue an apology for hitting a good man.
They don’t have to be buddies after this. This is not preschool where victims are forced to make up with their bullies. Nor do I imagine a fairy tale ending where everyone holds hands and sings kumbaya. But why not show the world a shining example of forgiveness and ownership of bad behavior. There are plenty of good reasons to move on as well. The populace follows these stars and such behavior, either way it goes is catching. Children follow in these footsteps.
It seems today as if so many of us are afraid of owning up to our bad behavior. And so many of the wronged are afraid of forgiving. Those following Donald Trump are so afraid of admitting bad behavior and seem to consider it their right today to disparage others, say what is on their minds and act badly. But those following the Me Too movement are afraid of forgiveness and moving on after exhibitions of bad behavior as if doing so sends a message of acceptance and tolerance of that bad behavior.
What if Mr. Rock and Mr. Smith could emerge from a joint mediation session to admit how badly both acted while acknowledging that it is neither okay to constantly and derisively disparage people. Nor is it okay to deal with such insults with violence. What a shining example that would be to everyone out here today.
I actually see such behaviors and actions emerging during my divorce cases. But mediation sessions can be a time to let go of the past. Mediation can be an amazing method of reaching resolution. It doesn’t mean you have to accept that what the other did was okay, but it means you can accept it occurred, that it no longer holds power over you and move on toward resolution and peace outside the conflict, showing those around you a better way. Just like Kelly Clarkson. And maybe Will Smith and Chris Rock.