The news is out that the high profile couple Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver have officially separated.  While it may come as a surprise for some, others, according to TMZ, are not.  Shriver, who was in the ranks of NBC’s news division, scaled back her career to care for her four children and quit altogether once her husband was elected governor of California.  Now that his term is done, the “Terminator” is eager to resume his acting career.  The separation is amicable, they say, until they begin separating assets that have been jointly accumulated during their 25 year marriage, then they may be singing a different tune.  With four children and joint assets, here is what the power couple can expect next.

The division of assets should be relatively simple and straightforward.  California is a community property state, which would entitle each of the individuals to half of the assets.  Prior to getting married, Arnold and Maria were already celebrities and had individual wealth apart from each other.  Therefore, it is reasonable to believe the parties executed a prenuptial agreement which should account for the division of all assets in the event the marriage is in fact terminated.  However, it is against public policy to try to negotiate away the financial responsibilities with respect to children in a prenuptial agreementand so remains the possibility that a court could order child support be paid.  If Mr. Schwarzenegger does resume his acting career and is able to resurrect his action-figure persona, he will likely begin to generate an income well beyond that of a governor.  He will then be in a position to pay a considerable amount of support to Maria, assuming she will continue to be the primary residential parent of the children.  Let’s hope that the split remains amicable and that this does not become a custody circus, like we have seen with Britney Spears, Charlie Sheen, Alec Baldwin, etc.

When representing athletes and entertainers within our Sports & Entertainment Family Law Department, we always impress upon our clients the need for discretion and civility, especially when children are involved.  The dissolution of a parent’s marriage is difficult enough, let alone having the scrutiny of media attention reporting all the gory details of their parent’s divorce. 

Best of luck to Arnold and Maria!