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What's at Stake in a High-Asset Divorce Like Cox and Arquette's?

With the October 12 announcement that Courteney Cox and David Arquette are in a trial separation and will possibly divorce, many people will likely be interested in what is at stake in a high-asset divorce.  While the divorce laws in California are somewhat different from those in Georgia, many of the issues remain relevant.

Division of Assets and the Effect of Any Prenuptial Agreement

According to media estimates, Cox has a personal net worth of approximately $75 million. Arquette's personal net worth is lower but still significant. In California, most of the couple's assets will be considered community property absent a prenuptial agreement. That means that most of their assets would be subject to a 50-50 split during the property division in their divorce, with few exceptions. (In Georgia, some or all of the property and assets each spouse had before the marriage could be deemed to be non-divisible personal property.)

The couple jointly owns and runs Coquette Productions, a production company which produced "Dirt" and "Cougar Town," both of which star Courteney Cox. Both Cox and Arquette also have earnings from their television and film work, along with syndication payments from that work. They may also own copyrights or other intellectual property, investments and other assets. They are known to have sold their Malibu beach-front home in 2007 for an estimated profit of approximately $23.5 million.

Many wealthy couples do negotiate prenuptial agreements before marriage, and most divorce attorneys recommend them. Just like everyone else, however, celebrity couples may decide that a prenup is not the right choice for them personally. Such agreements are not generally made public unless the divorce involves a trial on the public record.

In California, prenuptial agreements can govern property division, alimony and, to some extent, child support. Prenups covering child custody or visitation are not enforceable.

Co-Parenting and Child Support

Cox and Arquette have a daughter, so child custody, visitation and child support will have to be decided.

According to J. Michael Kelly, a high-asset divorce lawyer, California law determines child support in part upon how much time each parent has custody of the child. Therefore, the couple's shared parenting agreement or order will have an impact on how much child support is paid and to whom.

If the couple can't agree on a shared parenting plan, the decision will be made by a judge, based on the best interest of the child. However, the couple has expressed their commitment to co-parent their child.

"We remain best friends and responsible parents to our daughter," the couple has been quoted as saying. 

Source: X17online, "Christina Aguilera and Courtney Cox Divorces: What's at Stake?," October 12, 2010

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