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Divorce or Conscious Uncoupling?

In late March, celebrity couple Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin announced they were pursuing a conscious uncoupling. For a divorcing couple, what might that mean?

The media had a field day with the sincere separation statement made on a website maintained by Ms. Paltrow. Married since 2003, actress Gwyneth Paltrow and musician Chris Martin are the parents of two children, a girl and a boy.

Although a celebrity couple, Ms. Paltrow and Mr. Martin face the timeworn problems of all married couples. How do you keep a love relationship alive? When the flame goes out, how do you get through the division of lives, children and property?

Despite what appears to be a gentle exit to their marriage, the couple will have significant divorce issues to face, including:

  • Custody: Still an apparently tight-knit family, the couple has expressed interest in closely co-parenting their children. News reports suggest the couple intends to co-habit in their $14 million Malibu home. The spacious estate has separate living quarters in each wing. However, when either party starts dating, even separate wings could be too close for comfort.
  • Property division: With approximately five properties around the world, plus wealth topping $100 million, it will take quite some time for the couple to work through exactly who will receive control of which assets.
  • Spousal support: With high-asset couples, any claim is possible. Mr. Martin is the higher earner, but Ms. Paltrow has several lucrative modeling contracts and is well known for her acting prowess.
  • Tax implications: With high-asset couples, the tax implications of the property division, as well as spousal support, are highly significant. For instance, if the couple’s homes in the Hamptons has a basis significantly lower than its fair market value, the house will effectively be worth less than one of the couple’s other homes with a similar fair market value but much higher tax basis.

At face value, conscious uncoupling is a statement that the couple wishes to do the hard work of divorce responsibly, ending their marital relationship through civilized discussion and agreement.

Mockery aside, if this celebrity couple can transform their married relationship into a healthy arrangement for themselves and their children, they’ll set a good example for other celebrity — and non-celebrity — couples to follow.

When you are considering getting divorced, seek experienced legal advice.

Jacksonville, Florida family law attorney Andrea Jevic also contributed to this blog post.

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