Thursday, October 6, 2016

New Sheriffs in Town: Hollywood Women Take Charge and Define Their Divorces

Celebrities continue to capture the divorce spotlight as a slew of high profile splits—Depp v. Heard, followed by Pitt v. Jolie—inspire massive amounts of tweets, articles and digital discussions. Famous married people going their separate ways is not surprising, but a new trend has emerged. Whether it is Gwyneth Paltrow, Amber Heard or Angelina Jolie, the ladies have taken charge. They—not their famous and seemingly powerful men—are announcing splits; defining and even labeling the process; and ensuring that settlements and proper behavior are followed in the aftermath.


Gwyneth: Define the Process and Co-parent 

A couple years ago, Gwyneth Paltrow became famous for telling the world about her conscious uncoupling with Coldplay front man Chris Martin. While the term was often mocked, the amicable, family-first approach was exactly what she wanted.

With conscious uncoupling, and then later conscious cohabitation, Gwyneth defined how her divorce would happen. She shared keys to the family home with Chris, and he even gets his own room. She lets her current boyfriend know when her ex is coming over so they can avoid awkward scenes. She believes that a co-parenting agreement and working together makes life as normal and stress-free as possible for the children—her top priority.

While it takes two to do the conscious uncoupling tango, most of us would be hard pressed to remember anything Chris said until the divorce was finalized. Whether the rest of the world thinks what she did or the term for it makes sense to them, what is most important is that she was in charge from start to finish. She told the world what she was going to do and then did it.

Amber: Get it Done, Fast

Amber Heard had a vastly different situation—filing a restraining order amidst allegations of abuse—yet she also controlled her split. Unlike many divorces in the real, non-celebrity world, the dissolution of her marriage to Johnny Depp felt like it took a week. It lasted a bit longer, but the speed and finality of their divorce is attributable to her controlling the message and process.

When Johnny was not moving quickly enough, Amber hit the accelerator by using the court of public opinion to motivate him to complete the formal split as fast as possible. When he tried to give money directly to the charities they agreed upon rather than pay her, she called him out for trying to get tax benefits. In the end, his Hollywood fame amounted to little as he followed her lead.

Like with Chris, it’s hard to know exactly what Johnny thought as he was so thoroughly outmaneuvered by Amber. Whether she learned from Gwyneth’s experience or simply followed her own strategy, no one can say Amber wasn’t in control from the announcement to the check sent to the charity.

Angelina: TBD, but In Charge

Our third example of women taking charge of their split is Angelina Jolie. She turned it up a notch by filing for divorce from Brad Pitt on the same day she moved her family, including the couple’s six children, to a new rental apartment. She has sued for sole physical custody of the kids and put her message out to the press by making sure everyone knew that Brad was under investigation by child family services. As a result, he hadn’t seen the kids in over a week while the investigation proceeded. She even allegedly blocked his phone number and ignores all contact with him.

While it is still too early to classify exactly what she wants in her divorce, Angelina exemplifies the trend of taking charge. She immediately hired a top Hollywood divorce attorney, and even put the woman who inspired the Scandal protagonist on her payroll. Her team is so powerful and Brad seems so outmanned that it reminds us of the old line from the Untouchables about “bringing a knife to a gun fight.” At this point, Brad probably has no choice but to follow whatever lead she desires.

The Rest of Us: Define Your Split!

Obviously, few people have the PR clout or the funds to hire dream teams of divorce lawyers and crisis managers. Not many have a blog or Twitter following that will compel their soon-to-be ex to bend to their will. But us regular folks can learn from what Hollywood women are doing.

Today in the US, about 60% of divorces are initiated by women, so whether you start the process or have to deal with a bombshell delivered by a spouse, the lesson is the same: take charge and define the split. Angelina’s strategy is aggressive because her top priority is to have the kids with her, and she is doing all that she can to accomplish that goal. Gwyneth is trying to make sure her kids maintain the life that they had before their parents split. Amber just wanted to be done as quickly as possible.

You can pick one of their strategies, modify one or come up with your own. But, the goal is to define what you want and determine how to make it happen. With your plan in place, when things inevitably become challenging, you can always stay focused on the end game.

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