The 10-Year Rule in California Divorces - Vanessa Bryant Waited for It

As readers of this blog know, we have some very celebrity-interested folks in our law firm! No surprise given that just about every week there’s some family law related celebrity story to read about and cover. Perhaps it’s a bit like rubber-necking a car accident, but really, how could we not cover some of the salacious stuff that makes up a Hollywood-style divorce?

This week’s big divorce news comes from a Hollywood sports superstar and not an actor and it’s the NBA Lakers’ Kobe Bryant. Kobe burst on the scene when he was but a teenager, and has played basketball for the LA Lakers his entire career. He really is a Michael Jordan type of superstar and winning is his game. But, Kobe just lost in the game of marriage as his wife of a decade, Vanessa, filed for divorce this month.

There has never been any lack of interest in the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant marriage starting at its beginning when she was but a teenager herself! It seemed a bit scandalous at the time that Kobe, already a budding NBA star, would choose a 17 year old to date, and then married her at 19 but who can argue with young love? Then came the rape scandal in Colorado when Kobe was accused of attacking a hotel worker to which he claimed consensual albeit rough sex as his defense. The case never went to trial and Vanessa stood by her man while wearing a $4 million purple diamond “I’m sorry for cheating” ring she received from Kobe. So did marital bliss follow that transgression?

No is the quick answer. The couple did have two daughters, and Vanessa did regularly attend the Lakers’ games and watched them win championship after championship, but it seems that Kobe never fully gave up his penchants for having affairs. The gossip columns have linked him with everyone from Playboy Playmates to Kim Kardashian’s best friend. Who knows the real truth of the matter but what we do know is that as soon as the Bryant marriage hit the 10 year mark, Vanessa filed for divorce.

What’s so special about 10 years in California divorce law? It’s all about the alimony (spousal support). In California, a marriage that lasts 10 years or longer is considered long-term, and the non-monied spouse is entitled to spousal support for life or until remarriage. This is a very important fact for many (mostly women) spouses who relied on the monied spouse for financial support during the marriage to still have financial support after the divorce. In Kobe and Vanessa’s divorce, we’re talking about millions of dollars. But just imagine a more “normal” case where a long-term marriage ends and the non-monied spouse can rely on $1,500 a month of spousal support for as long as she/he “needs” it? That’s a very important economic consideration for most people, and that’s why some speculate that it’s just plain foolish to file for divorce before hitting the 10 year mark in California. Vanessa Bryant is clearly no fool!


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