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Legal mistakes in media stories about celebrity divorce

Media outlets in Texas often run stories about famous or wealthy couples who are seeking a divorce that feature salacious allegations of infidelity or abuse. The writers of these articles sometimes try to give their readers added insight by delving into matters such as the value of the couple's assets and the legal strategies being pursued by their attorneys, and selling newspapers or magazines sometimes takes precedence over legal accuracy.

When reports emerged in 2013 that Jason Hoppy and Bethenny Frankel were facing the end of their marriage, several media outlets reported that the couple were both still living in their New York apartment even though they could barely stand the sight of one another. These stories made it seem that moving out would have cost Frankel or Hoppy their rights to the apartment, but the law would have treated the home as marital property even if it had been vacant. This is because decisions of this type are made based upon when an asset was acquired and not who is in possession of it.

Errors concerning how the courts decide what is and what is not marital property are common in celebrity divorce stories. Intellectual property rights and residual income from works that preceded the marriage by years or even decades are sometimes said to be in jeopardy, but courts generally only divide assets that were obtained during the marriage.

Family law is a complex and challenging area, and reporters cannot really be faulted for not understanding all of its intricacies. However, adopting a legal strategy because it worked on a television show or was printed in a celebrity gossip piece is rarely a prudent path to take, and experienced family law attorneys may devote a good deal of their initial consultations to clearing up misunderstandings of this type.

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Bruce Turner

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