Pretend, for a moment, that you are a celebrity, with name well-recognized across the world.
Got that? Ok, now pretend (and this may be harder for some of us working stiffs) that your net worth is in the high-hundred millions (is anyone still with me?).
Finally (and this is an easy one, sadly, for all too many people), pretend you want to divorce your spouse.
If you’re angry enough at aforesaid spouse–and you’ve got two brain cells to knock together–the name of the game in this divorce process is going to be getting a lawyer aggressive enough to hold onto your fortune, and not let your gold-digger ex (hours ago your beloved spouse) make off with too much of it.
This doesn’t always yield peace during the divorce process–nor does it show people to their greatest maturity at all times either, as Heather Mills, on the receiving end of Paul McCartney’s efforts to keep most of his millions for himself, demonstrated by–and I am not making this baptismal scene up–dumped a carafe of water on McCartney’s solicitor (a lawyer to us American rebels) in court during proceedings. (I’d like to say I’d made up that Mills hired Princess Diana’s solicitor and McCartney hired Prince Charles’, but it’s true–and, on second thought, maybe I wouldn’t have liked to have made that up. Too obvious for my innovative brain.)
And counting the celebrity divorces gone horribly awry gets old quickly (Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin, anyone? Dodger owners Frank and Jamie McCourt, for a good old-fashioned tussle now with a baseball team thrown in for fun? Charlie Sheen’s loving divorce phone call to Denise Richards that she’s “a sad, jobless pig who is sad and talentless and sad and jobless and evil and a bad mom…”? It’s almost too fun to stop, but it does divert us from the point.)
What gets all too little play is the celebrities who choose to go the mediation route, and end their marriages quickly, relatively cheaply, quietly, and with some dignity.
Any guesses on the more famous ones?
Clearly if you guessed Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton you’re sadly mistaken.
This first one may come as a surprise, but remember how Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren began their breakup? Well, as public and tawdry as the golf-club smashing scene may have been, the couple moved past their anger and sense of betrayal quickly, and moved to mediation. For real.
After an inauspicious beginning, the couple’s divorce was quiet, the terms kept from the public, and was over in 8 months [quick work in this business].
For here’s another fact about mediation that’s a big sell if you’re a celebrity–but might just catch your fancy even if you’re just an everyday Joe. Mediation ensures privacy. When you mediate, you sign a confidentiality agreement that nothing discussed during those mediation sessions can be shared with the public.
And let’s say no agreement is reached in mediation, and the couple takes the litigation route. That confidentiality agreement is still binding–nothing that was learned in mediation can be used in the litigation case.
I don’t know a thing about Tiger’s and Elin’s agreement–and my guess is you don’t either. One point for mediation’s side.
Having broached the topic of dignity, I’m sure the celebrity name you most associate with that adjective is. . .Tom Cruise. Am I right?
Okay, so it isn’t. Still, that doesn’t negate that when he and Nicole Kidman decided it was time to part ways, they mediated. Another quick divorce followed, with negativity kept out of the public’s prying grasp.
[If you want to know why we know some of the uglier details of their marriage and breakup, you have Mr. Cruise to thank, who, years later, deemed it appropriate to share this information. Had he restrained himself, it would have been under wraps until this day. Of course, if he could restrain himself he might not be bouncing around on couches and claiming psychiatry is little more than hocus-pocus, but that's a story for another day.]
And lest you think I’m done, here’s a good one–a marriage better in its ending than its short existence, I’m afraid. Pop superstar Katy Perry (remember? She kissed a girl?) married Russell Brand in October, 2010. It was an extravagant Hindu (yes, for real–don’t ask me why) wedding at a resort inside a tiger reserve in India. Memorable.
Well, their divorce proceedings could have been equally memorable, given the couple’s tendency for show–but mediation simplified them to the point that the paparazzi feels, I’m sure, ripped off.
The couple privately worked out all financial issues (could it get more disappointing? Where’s a good Mills-McCartney fight when you want one?), and less than six weeks after Brand did the official filing for divorce, the L.A. judge signed off on their paperwork. All terms of the split are confidential.
And, before I sign off, I must share with you a potential celebrity mediation that would be beautiful in its irony. Kim Kardashian, who has not used the facilities in her entire life without calling in the media, would like to mediate the ending of her 36-second marriage to Kris Humphries, claiming she wants the affair kept private.
I’m skeptical on this one, though. Humphries has already engaged an aggressive attorney, and has not shown signs of going quietly.
Because, great as mediation is, there is a subtle trick to it–if someone else hires a lawyer and refuses to meet you in mediation sessions, well, that’s a pretty sure sign it’s going to fail.
As sure to fail as Larry King’s 9th attempt at marriage, I’d say.