David Arquette and Courteney Cox Stupidly Plan Divorce Without Lawyers
After a two-year separation, David Arquette and Courteney Cox have finally filed to end their 12-year marriage, but the actors may find they are in for more than they bargained for as they try to end their union without the help of skilled attorneys.
- Couple plans to split assets evenly
- No prenuptial agreement; Cox’s earnings worth four times Arquette’s
- Planning on joint custody of their child
Once the Dust Has Settled . . .
It feels like a publicity stunt, carried out to impress fans. As if the former couple wants to show the world, “See? We’re such good friends we don’t need an attorney’s help to end the complicated legal and financial ties that bind us!” But Cox and Arquette are playing a dangerous game by representing themselves, and may come to regret it later. “When a couple has significant assets or property, they should each seek the guidance of their own qualified lawyers during the divorce process,” says Alison Grcevich, a family law attorney with San Francisco-based firm Heath-Newton.
“Even when the parties are amicable and can agree on how to divide their property, it is important that they not only understand their rights in a division of the assets, but also that their ultimate settlement agreement is properly drafted. A poorly drafted divorce judgment can create problems years down the road, even after all the dust has settled.”
“No matter how ‘friendly’ you’d like your divorce to be, it is extremely difficult and emotionally-trying to reach agreements on child custody, alimony payments and the division of assets and liabilities,” a Forbes article lectures, while imagining Cox’s blunt Friends character Monica Geller asking her in astonishment, “Are you crazy?”
Cox and Arquette claim they are just going to split all their property evenly. But what about complex financial packages that aren’t so easy to chop in half, like stocks, royalties, retirement plans and the like? When you’ve earned millions of dollars over the course of a marriage it’s not as easy as just divvying up a big pile of cash.
Think of the Children
“He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” – Abraham Lincoln.
“I pity the fool.” – Mr. T.
Cox and Arquette never signed a prenuptial agreement, which the actress might be lamenting since she’s worth a reported $75 million to Arquette’s paltry $18 million. Failing to sign a simple document at the start of the marriage will have cost Cox tens of millions of dollars. How much more might she unwittingly give up by not consulting a lawyer at the divorce?
Okay, so it’s not all about the money. But complicating matters even more, Cox and Arquette have an 8-year-old daughter. They say they want joint custody of the girl and will likely receive it. However, once again there could be unforeseen problems that pop up because they are proceeding without good legal advice. “When there are children involved in a divorce, a good lawyer can help guide his or her client through the divorce process while keeping what is in the child’s best interest at the forefront of the case,” says Grcevich. “A lot of divorcing parents don’t know what rights they have as far as child custody or child support is concerned, and navigating the court system can be a daunting task for most individuals.”
Unfortunately, saving a few dollars now in attorney fees could prove to be both financially and emotionally costly once all the details shake out and Cox and Arquette potentially find themselves unhappy with their final agreement. “If you don’t know what the law says on these issues,” says Grcevich, “it can be very difficult to know whether your settlement agreement is actually a fair deal for both parties.”