Power of 10 – Secrets of an A-List Divorce Attorney
Divorce is becoming “crazier,” according to the Los Angeles lawyer Laura Wasser, though that could have something to do with the clients she has represented, including Kim Kardashian, Maria Shriver and Ashton Kutcher. Men have a reputation for being scoundrels, but Wasser said she increasingly sees women behaving badly. “Wives end up cheating with the math tutor or the swim coach, then snapping, ‘You deserve it! You neglected me!'”
Her new book, “It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way” (out Oct. 1 from St. Martin’s Press; $25.99), is meant as a corrective. In it, she offers tips for divorcing like adults, along with a smorgasbord of juicy divorce stories (no names, naturally). Wasser, who has been in the business for 20 years, was once married herself and admits that she’s a sucker for a good wedding. Here, she offers 10 rules for how to get divorced in a civilized manner.
1. Marriage is a contract.
“If the ‘provider’ is no longer able to provide the unlimited credit card spending at Prada, Chanel, Gucci and Hermès, the deal has changed. A new deal must be negotiated.”
2. Divorce is a business transaction.
“Although it’s incredibly emotional, emotions should not come into your negotiations. Rise above it, like Katherine Hepburn or Lady Diana.”
3. Dissolve it before it gets ugly.
“You do not want to find yourself staring at the sleeping frame of your spouse or partner and contemplating suffocation by pillow. You also don’t want to get so frustrated you simply pack a suitcase and flee mindlessly.”
4. Before discussing divorce, consider what you want to say.
“The opening conversation is critical. The way it goes down is likely to be the way of the dissolution. Write a ‘nice’ letter. Do not say, ‘I will nail you to the wall.'”
5. Keep your feelings to yourself.
“Do not disclose too much information except to your attorney and to your therapist if you are seeing one. You do not have to tell everyone how bad it was or why it ended.”
6. Be prepared to share.
“If you were the breadwinner, be prepared to give half of everything and child support. I often see women who are very surprised they need to pay him, but the law doesn’t see any difference with gender now. Nor is there a presumption that kids will go to Mom. Many states favor joint custody.”
7. Do not behave badly in front of your children.
“I think the worst case was a woman who screamed every profanity on a three-minute telephone message. She screamed how awful he was, and swore and cussed at him and said everyone despised him. Then you hear, ‘I don’t hate you, Daddy!'”
8. Be graceful under pressure.
“One client’s wife managed to steam the labels off all of the several hundred bottles in her husband’s prestigious wine collection, so the collection was worthless. The husband hosted ‘What’s that wine?’ dinner parties.”
9. Split assets together.
“Grab a bunch of Post It notes and walk through the home together civilly, saying what each of you would like.”
10. Don’t sleep with your ex-partner.
“A sexual relationship means it’s still on, legally and for claiming. Separating means separating.”
A version of this article appears in print on 09/29/2013, on page ST3 of the NewYork edition with the headline: Split Decisions: Divorce Confidential.