How to – and how not to – announce your divorce
Divorce is never an easy subject to brooch, so if you are to split with your spouse, how should you break the news?
In the wake of celebrity couple Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner announce they are to divorce after 10 years of marriage, a top celebrity publicist has revealed how their public announcements are carefully managed.
British-born Rob Shuter told New York magazine that, sadly, it’s not always those involved that are first to know:
“I’ve known instances where a member of that couple has told their publicist before they’ve told their significant other … The hair and makeup people, they always seem to be the first to know.”
It’s an interesting approach but Shuter explains why:
“When troubles are happening in their personal lives and they haven’t processed it, or they’re embarrassed to talk about it, they’re not always ready to call someone they pay … It’s when the sources go silent that you know there’s a problem.”
The more usual route is to get their publicists to work together on a public declaration.
“When celebrities decide they are pulling the plug is that they’ll call their PR teams and the two different publicists — hers and his — will get on a phone call and negotiate a statement.”
Needless to say, it’s also about timing; for example, Ben Affleck’s announcement would have been timed for release ahead of his appearance at a major Comic Con, where he will be promoting his latest movie.
The actor will also be primed with responses for reporters at the event, Shuter reveals.
“He’ll have a few stock answers that he can pull out, and then he’ll move on and talk about the movie. The mistake will be if they say, ‘No personal questions.’ It will make everyone feel as if there’s an elephant in the room.”
Timing is also important in terms of the financial commitment involved in the divorce. In the US, marriages lasting over ten years are considered long-term. Furthermore in California, according to celeb LA divorce attorney Fahi Tekesh Hallin, financial settlements for short marriages involve support for half the time a couple are together, i.e. 5 years max. For longer-term marriages, there is no time limit, so the wealthier partner may be liable for ‘endless support’. Since the marriage duration is calculated from the marriage date to the separation (not the divorce), it becomes clear why timing is crucial…
That may explain why celebrities have realised that social media can be used to issue statements quickly, although saving thousands of dollars in publicist fees might have something to do with it too! Publicist Shuter, needless to say, has seen this coming:
“What I predict is going to change in the next couple of years, pretty fast, is instead of issuing these statements through a publicist, that the Taylor Swifts and the Kylie Jenners will do everything on social media. I don’t think they need to pick an outlet anymore. I don’t think they need to find a media partner.”
Even if you are not in the glare of the media spotlight, how you manage the announcement of a separation or divorce may ultimately affect the course of proceedings. Instructing experienced lawyers who will advise you every step of the way is essential. Call us for a free 30 minute consultation to discuss your particular circumstances, and to find out how we can help.