Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie made headlines when they became a couple. They made headlines when they got married. And now they’re making headlines with their divorce. Predictably, perhaps, the divorce has gotten a little loony. There are reports of Brad Pitt treating his kids poorly (and stealing an aircraft taxi at an airport in Minnesota).
And there are reports of Angelina Jolie and some of her odd behavior (of course, those reports are not necessarily uncommon). In any case, I’m not bringing up the demise of Brangelina only to gossip. I thought it might be useful to talk about some of the issues that they might have to grapple with as their divorce proceeds.
After all, most of us think about a divorce as a kind of one bad day. But divorce is actually a process.
Think about it like this: you know how your headphones get all tangled up when you leave them in your pocket or purse for too long? Life is a lot like that. Marriage has a way of wrapping two lives around each other. The more assets you have, the more entwined you become.
A divorce is the process of untangling those assets—deciding who gets what. Most states have specific laws that handle lay out who gets what, specifically. But it’s also possible that there is a prenuptial agreement between the couple that delineates how assets are divided.
However, there is a little bit more to this than just how the bank account gets split. Brad and Angelina, for example, will likely have to figure out the following:
- Retirement: As most people go through life, they save for retirement. In most states, retirement money is supposed to be split down the middle, even if the contributions were not necessarily even. The thinking is that, during your marriage, you’re pooling your money for retirement (and so you might spend more of one spouse’s income and save more of the other’s).
- Child Support and Child Custody: In some cases, child support and child custody are handled at the same time. In others, they aren’t. Where you are in the country makes a big difference. Child support in Brainerd, MN, is determined quite differently from child support in Los Angeles, CA. Brad and Angelina will have to cope with whatever laws are enacted where they live.
- Any Other Assets: From shared properties to investments in companies to stock market returns, everything that is in the couple’s shared name will need to be divvied up. For Brad and Angelina, this might even mean profits from films they’ve been in or commissions from studios.
Look, there’s no doubt that divvying assets gets complicated. It seems to me that couples often take one of two approaches:
- Sell off all the assets and split the money gained from those sales
- Swap assets of equal value (you get the house in California and I get the house in Florida)
Which one works better for you will depend on how many assets you have and how attached to them you are.
They’ll Be Spending Some Time in Court
It’s likely, then, that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie will be spending some time in court. That’s how the process is supposed to work, anyway. We’re often so emotionally involved (and marriages are so often emotionally tilted in favor of one spouse or another) that the courts are a great way to get some objectivity into the process.
But it can also be an expensive endeavor. Getting divorced is almost as expensive as getting married (and you should see what people spend on weddings). It shouldn’t be, right? Many people who want a divorce are not themselves in a great situation. Cost shouldn’t be a roadblock to getting away from someone you don’t like.
Which I guess is a long way of saying that I think Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are going to be okay. They’re getting a divorce, sure, and the next few months may be emotionally dicey.
But they’re also pretty well insulated from some of the hardships that less well off (that is, wealthy) folks will experience during a divorce. That’s not meant to trivialize what anyone goes through—simply an observation that Brad and Angelina don’t have to worry about coming up with the money to finance their divorce (ironically, their divorce is likely to be much more expensive because of that).
It’s like that old saying goes: mo’ money, mo’ problems.