March 11th, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
The ongoing scandal of spousal support was back in the news last week with the astonishing revelation that actress Demi Moore has claimed spousal support from soon-to-be-ex-husband Ashton Kutcher. Here’s one article on Moore’s court filing (Huffington Post, 3/9/13).
I know what you’re thinking. It’s something like “Dude, you can’t be serious.” But I am. Reports place Moore’s net worth at $150 million and Kutcher’s at about $140 million. For my part, I can’t believe that Moore is “only” worth that much. After all, she shook down Bruce Willis for $60 million in their divorce and that was 15 years ago.
More importantly, Moore was at one time a big-time actress grabbing a number of major roles in such movies as “Ghost,” “G.I. Jane,” “Striptease,” “Indecent Proposal” and “A Few Good Men.” She’s been a major presence on television and in Hollywood since 1981, so, unless she’s been an unspeakable spendthrift or a truly horrible investor, she’s worth more than $150 million.
But whatever the truth about the details of her finances, Demi Moore doesn’t need spousal support. Of course I said the same about Maria Shriver, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ex, and he’s paying her, so who knows what the courts will do? After all, it may be true that, as Moore ages and as Kutcher comes into his prime, he’s earned more than she has.
But the question should be “does she need it?” If that were the question, though, the answer in Moore’s case as in Shriver’s is “obviously, she does not.” And yet still she’s claiming spousal support.
The only possible excuse for spousal support’s existence as a legal concept should be the necessity of one or the other of the spouses. As I’ve said before, if one spouse is very old, infirm, seriously disabled or mentally incompetent, I can make a case for spousal support at least for a time. There’s no reason why one spouse’s desire to be free of the other should put the other on the street and unable to care for him/herself.
Of course none of that even remotely applies to Demi Moore. She has more money than entire towns do.
And here’s another little item. The two have been married since 2005 and have no children. During that time, Kutcher’s career has done pretty well. Has he made more than she has? My guess is that he’s made a good bit more, but whatever the case, half of it is hers, just as half of her earnings are his. So, just like her divorce from Willis, Moore will take plenty to the bank. It’ll be called her share of the marital assets, not spousal support, but what’s in a name? She’ll once again be able to count divorce as a very lucrative venture.
Does Moore actually believe a court will grant her spousal support? If she doesn’t, why’d she ask for it? The fact is that, whether she gets it or not, there’s at least a legal issue to be decided, so why not take a chance. The court can’t say ‘yes’ if she doesn’t at least do that.
With every high-profile divorcee who claims spousal support, the whole concept of one ex supporting the other ex for years or even decades comes into question. The State of Massachusetts just did away with permanent spousal support last year, and other states like Florida have changed the law to make the practice at least a tad more sensible.
Family law is a strange world. On one hand it thrives on the divorce trade; for family lawyers and judges, the more people untying the knot, the better. And, for the past 30 years or so, business has been booming. One of the reasons for that is the fact that women particularly know that they can cash in on their marital discontent. After all, why put up with someone you no longer like if you can get rid of him but still retain what’s good about him – his income.
So on the other hand, the same family law that splits people up, keeps them forever bound to each other, but in enmity rather than in love. As I said, it’s strange.
Truly, we talk about gender equality and we laud women in the workplace. We say women can do anything men can do and, for the most part, that’s true. But we apparently think nothing of retaining an artifact of bygone eras that assumed women couldn’t support themselves and needed male protection all their lives. Well, if it’s different now, let’s start acting like we believe it. Let’s do away with spousal support entirely except in those very limited circumstances I mentioned above.
Demi Moore doesn’t need Ashton Kutcher’s money any more than he needs hers. If they don’t like each other any more, divorce is the right thing for them to do, particularly since there aren’t any kids involved. But let’s put aside once and for all any notion that, just because two people were once in love and married, one of them has to support the other long after they’ve split. Once the marital bonds are broken, men and women alike should support themselves to the best of their abilities. If they’ve let their marketable skills erode, that’s their problem, not someone else’s.
As with so much else in family law, we’re a long way from making sense when it comes to spousal support. In her own backhanded way, maybe Demi Moore will speed the process along.