Divorce is never fun. Divorce under a spotlight is even worse. But some lessons can be learned from celebrities that go through a public divorce. In this case, we’ll look at the divorce of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver.

What We Know

In the case of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, it took over ten years to end their marriage. 

There were very few court documents filed in the divorce case. Shriver filed for divorce in 2011 after Schwarzenegger confessed to fathering a child with a member of their household staff. 

The final documents state that neither party owes spousal support, but they reserve the right to seek support later. Additionally, since their children are adults, there are no custody issues to resolve. 

A private judge mediated the divorce case. Some news and entertainment outlets have reported that the decade-long delay was due to a lack of motivation. Neither party pushed too hard for the divorce, even though they both moved on to new relationships. 

Additionally, the couple did not have a prenuptial agreement. With a suspected net worth of over $400 million, the property settlement agreement could have been the issue that caused the ten-year divorce proceeding.

The property settlement is confidential, but some sources claim it was an even split. If that is true, it would not be surprising. After all, California is a community property state. 

Contested and Uncontested Divorces in California

California law allows some couples to obtain a divorce in just six months and one day with very little paperwork or court involvement. It is called a summary dissolution

An uncontested divorce in San Diego can be completed in just over six months if the parties cooperate fully and file paperwork on time. However, contested divorces take longer to resolve. 

Some contested divorces could take more than a year or two to complete. 

California’s Community Property Laws

Property division during a divorce action can cause a heated battle between spouses. Since California is a community property state, property division should be simple. However, deciding what assets are community property is often the obstacle that causes litigation. 

Community property is generally any property the spouses own together. It includes anything that the parties acquired while they were married. Community property also includes all earnings that either spouse received during the marriage and items purchased with that money. 

All community property is divided equally in a divorce. However, separate property is not subject to division in a divorce action.

Generally, assets acquired before the marriage are not community property. Likewise, inheritance is considered separate property.

Litigation Centers Around Defining Marital Property

Most property division issues in California divorces relate to identifying community property and separate property. One spouse may argue that specific assets should be included as community property. 

A common issue during property division disputes is the commingling of separate property with community property.

For example, an inheritance from your parents would be separate property. Therefore, it is not subject to property division. However, if you place cash from your inheritance in a joint bank account with your spouse, the money would become community property. Moreover, suppose the account was in your name only. If you deposit income earned during your marriage, the inherited funds would become community property.

Suppose your parents also left you their home. If you use income you earned during your marriage to pay the mortgage on your parents’ home or improve the home, the home becomes community property. You can only use income generated from renting the home or other inherited assets to maintain the separate status of the inherited home. 

Maintaining “separate” status requires that you keep those assets away from any assets you acquire during your marriage. That includes assets titled solely in your name. 

Avoiding Divorce Litigation by Signing a Prenuptial Agreement 

A prenuptial agreement is a binding contract between individuals who intend to get married. The agreement states how the couple will divide property and assets if they divorce or separate. For example, the parties may agree to split property evenly, or they may choose to divide property another way.

Typically, a prenuptial agreement identifies property that each person owns that remains separate property. The parties agree that the specific assets will not be divided even if the parties commingle the assets during the marriage. The agreement also defines what will be considered marital property.

The agreement explains the rights of each spouse after they are married. It also defines their rights in the event of a separation, divorce, or death. For example, in the prenuptial agreement, a spouse may waive their right to inherit from the other spouse’s estate. 

Having a prenuptial agreement can avoid lengthy and costly divorce litigation. However, for a prenuptial agreement to be valid, it must meet specific requirements under California law. Therefore, you want to consult with an attorney to ensure the agreement is legally binding on both parties. 

Also, a person should never enter a prenuptial agreement without legal counsel. A prenuptial agreement could limit your legal rights during a divorce action. Entering an agreement without consulting a lawyer could have devastating consequences for your future.