Divorce can be one of the most emotionally and financially, difficult experiences in people’s lives. Those in the public eye have the additional pressure of publicity. With a national divorce rate of between forty and fifty percent, couples splitting up is usually not big news.
One couple that has created headlines and internet chatter is Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore. In 2003, the unlikely pair started dating, causing a media frenzy conveniently timed to Demi Moore’s acting comeback in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle. After six years of marriage, they separated and Kutcher filed for divorce in 2012. It was not until March 2013, though, that Moore responded. In her filing, Moore surprisingly asked for spousal support from Kutcher, in spite of having more money than her to-be ex. In New Jersey, there’s a time limit to respond to these filings or risk the court entering a default judgment. A claim for divorce has a date by which the other spouse must respond, 35 days after receiving notice. By New Jersey standards, Moore is well over this time frame, and if this case was in this state, Kutcher could have likely received a default judgment against her, limiting her ability to respond. Realistically, she would likely have gotten an extension of time from the Court, but nowhere near as long as the one in the “real” case. Moore’s request for “grant alimony” or “spousal support,” a request often made by a spouse, is puzzling. Alimony is a tool where one spouse pays to help the other spouse continue to live the way that he or she did while the two were married. To determine whether and how much alimony will be awarded, the courts look to a number of factors including the length of the marriage, the earning power and the current assets held by each spouse. This was what would be considered in New Jersey a “short term marriage.” Equally as important, Moore has more money than Kutcher; she is estimated to have $150 million dollars in assets, $10 million more than Kutcher. But Kutcher makes more per paycheck than Moore. In her Charlie’s Angel’s role (over nine years ago), Moore reportedly earned “only” $2 million – Kutcher is now the highest paid sitcom TV actor, earning $24 million per year for his role in Two and a Half Men. So will Demi get “Moore” from Mr. Kutcher from the divorce? A New Jersey judge would be unlikely to award alimony to a spouse in a short-term marriage who’s net worth is more than the other. But each case is unique and judges have great discretion. We’ll have to “stay-tuned’ to see how the story ends. With assistance from Angela Yu, Rutgers School of Law & Rutgers Business School.