Another heavyweight Hollywood couple is calling it quits. Laurence Fishburne, who stars on the sitcom Blackish, recently filed for a divorce from his estranged wife, Suits star Gina Torres, after 15 years of marriage. The couple, who have been formally separated for over a year, will have to tackle complex divorce issues including a division of assets and agree on a custody arrangement for their 10-year-old daughter.
Disposition of Marital Assets
It appears as though Fishburne and Torres have been working together over the past year to settle on amicable terms for their split. Reports state that they have entered into a preliminary agreement about how their property should be divided. If all goes as planned, the couple will formally file this agreement with the court for approval.
As Hollywood stars, the couple has considerable assets and liabilities. These holdings likely consist of both separate and community property. Separate property includes assets and liabilities that belong to each individual spouse. Separate property is generally the property (and liabilities) that belong to each person before they get married. Let’s say, for example, that Fishburne had real estate holdings, investments, or a car before he and Torres got married. Unless he specifically amended the legal titles to name Torres as an owner, this property will be considered to be his, and his alone, after their divorce. Torres will have no right to ask for or claim this property because it is Fishburne’s separate property. The same is true for any property that Torres owned by herself before she and Fishburne got married 15 years ago. Both Torres and Fishburne will be able to keep their separate property after the divorce.
Community property is more complicated to divide because it is owned equally by both spouses. Community property generally includes anything acquired by a couple while they are married. This can include real estate, wages and income, retirement benefits, and physical property. In California, each spouse is entitled to half of the marital estate (community property) when they get divorced. Dividing marital assets in half can be difficult, but can be achieved in a few different ways.
- Literally split property in half, and award half to each spouse (e.g., a collection of fine china);
- Liquidate property and award each spouse half of the proceeds (e.g., sell the house, split the profit);
- Negotiate items of equal value (e.g., Fishburne gets the investment accounts and car in exchange for giving Torres the right to the family home).
Torres and Fishburne have reportedly come to an agreement about how their marital estate should be divided. The court will review the agreement to make sure that each spouse is getting a fair deal in the split.
Determination of Child Custody
Fishburne and Torres have a 10-year-old daughter together and will need to determine how custody and visitation will be awarded. Reports indicate that Fishburne has formally requested joint physical and legal custody of their daughter. If Torres agrees to this arrangement, the court will likely sign off and approve their agreement. California, which has an interest in keeping children in close contact with both parents, prefers when parents can come to friendly and amicable custody arrangements on their own.
If Torres does not agree to joint custody, the court may have to intervene and determine what is in the child’s best interest. Again, California has made it clear that it prefers when a child has frequent and meaningful contact with both parents after a divorce. It will strive to award joint custody unless there are allegations of abuse or persuasive testimony that explains why sole custody is more appropriate.
Child’s Ability to Testify in a Child Custody Hearing
In California, children may have the right to tell the court which parent they would prefer to live with. Children can testify in a child custody hearing if they are:
- 14 years of age or older; or
- Of sufficient age and capacity to form an intelligent custody preference.
Since their daughter is only ten, a judge is not required to hear her testimony. However, he can choose to allow the girl to testify if he/she believes that the child is old enough and mature enough to formulate a reasonable opinion. Although Fishburne and Torres could not make their marriage work, it appears as though they will be able to amicably agree to the terms of their divorce. If this is true, the court will likely approve the request for joint custody and allow both parents to maintain a meaningful presence in their daughter’s life.
Getting Divorced With the Help of an Attorney
Torres and Fishburne have made great strides in figuring out the specifics of their divorce. Each spouse is undoubtedly represented by an experienced divorce attorney. Hiring a divorce lawyer can help to make the process of getting divorced less complicated and less stressful. If you are thinking about getting a divorce in Los Angeles contact the divorce lawyers at Berenji & Associates. We can review your case, explain the process of getting a divorce, and answer the questions you have.