How are celebrity divorce papers different?

That varies, depending on the celebrities involved. While you’d have to ask a lawyer about a specific celebrity divorce case, it’s safe to say that celebrity divorces are quite different from typical marital dissolutions.

Rich couple ignoring each other on a private plane

Of course, any divorce has the potential to be a serious legal undertaking involving mounds of paperwork and massive attorney fees. Add in a couple of world-famous faces and millions of dollars in assets, and you’ve got an incredibly complex situation.

Many celebrities choose to sign prenuptial agreements to avoid the drama—and we’ll discuss those in a moment—but prenups aren’t perfect. Celebrities often have to take special considerations when undergoing their divorces.

Celebrity divorces are more expensive.

The most obvious difference: The numbers are much, much bigger.

In most states, assets acquired by one member of the marriage are legally considered theirs (unless they specifically put the assets in both of their names). However, California is different. It’s a community property state, which means that couples without prenups (more on those later) need to divide assets earned during their marriage.

That can make Hollywood divorces costly. For instance, in 2011, Mel Gibson’s ex-wife, Robyn, reportedly walked away with half of the star’s $850 million fortune.

Still, while that divorce was costly, at least it was relatively straightforward. After all, attorneys simply needed to add up the total value of each partner’s assets and divide it in two. What could be simpler? Well, hold that thought.

Celebrity divorces often include intellectual property.

In a typical divorce, assets are fairly clear cut. In a celebrity divorce, the value of each partner’s celebrity comes into play.

Think of it this way: Jessica Biel might have $200 million in property (we’re guessing—that’s not a real number). However, the fact that she’s Jessica Biel is worth something—she’ll pull in plenty of royalties from her appearances in film and TV. If she divorces Justin Timberlake, her attorneys will have to determine how much the royalties for The Illusionist are really worth. She might also own copyrights.

Attorneys for each party must address dozens of intellectual property issues. What if Biel has a smartphone app that’s regularly raking in money? Does Timberlake get a part of that app? What about the rights to biographies? How about the value of Timberlake’s song lyrics? Can you really put a price on "SexyBack"?

Yes, but it’s not easy. Celebrity divorce papers need to sort out these types of intangible assets. Each celeb’s personal brand has value, and determining that value can take a lot of effort. Fortunately, there’s a way to simplify things. Sort of.

Celebrities often have prenuptial agreements.

If you’re an avid tabloid reader, you’ve probably noticed that celebrity divorces are fairly commonplace. A sizable percentage of all marriages end in divorce, and celebrities often deal with rigorous schedules and constant media attention—not great ingredients for a healthy marriage.

Many celebrities set up prenuptial agreements before starting their marriages. It’s a practical decision; prenups help to simplify some issues involving tangible and intangible property in the event of a divorce. However, Hollywood prenups might include details that seem outlandish to the average person. While reporting on celebrities isn’t always reliable, here are a few apparent prenup clauses that made news:

  • Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s prenup reportedly had an adultery clause, which would have given Jolie primary custody of their children if Pitt stepped out of line.
  • Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban’s prenup reportedly has a clause that prevents Urban, a recovering addict, from receiving anything at all if he drinks to excess or uses illegal substances.
  • In the event of a split with Kanye West, Kim Kardashian will reportedly receive $1 million for every year they’re married, capped at $10 million.
  • If Jay Z and Beyoncé get divorced, Beyoncé will reportedly receive $5 million for each child the couple has together.

These types of stipulations tend to draw headlines, but remember, celebrity marriages are different. When Beyoncé had a child, that (arguably) helped Jay Z’s brand, so it sort of makes sense that he’d sacrifice more of their eventual divorce settlement for every child.

Also, many celebrity prenup clauses are determined by attorneys, not the actual stars involved in the settlement, so while prenups make for great headlines, we wouldn’t use them to judge the celebrities involved.

Those are just some of the ways that celebrity divorce papers are different from typical divorce agreements. Hopefully, this gives you some idea of the true price of fame (not to mention the dozens of factors that celebs have to consider when they decide to get hitched in the first place).