Think of all the copies of John Grisham novels that sell in airport convenience stores and all the Rolling Stones songs that play every day on oldies and classic rock stations now and that used to play on Top 40 radio stations when you were young. Now think about all the money that Grisham and the surviving members of the Rolling Stones get for every copy of a book sold or every time a song plays on the radio. Even if it is only a penny each, owning the rights to these intellectual properties is very lucrative. If you own copyrights, patents, or trademarks or have the right to earn royalties from creative work, this could easily become a heated point of contention in your divorce.
Michael Douglas and Diandra Luker
Michael Douglas was married to his first wife, Diandra Luker, from 1977 until 1995, during which time he acted in some of his most successful films, including Romancing the Stone, Fatal Attraction, and Basic Instinct, but perhaps his most memorable role from that era was as the mind-bogglingly greedy businessman Gordon Gekko in Wall Street. When Douglas and Luker divorced, the court ordered him to pay her a $45 million settlement and also awarded her a share of any royalties generated from the films he recorded during their marriage as well as any spin-offs of them. In 2010, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps debuted in movie theaters, and Luker and Douglas have been arguing in court ever since about how much money, if any, she is entitled to from the proceeds of the latter film. If it is a sequel to the original Wall Street, then Luker does not get any royalties, but if it is a spin-off, she does.
Cheryl Burke and Matthew Lawrence
When Cheryl Burke and Matthew Lawrence married in 2019, they had known each other a long time; their first date had been in 2007, but after several years of dating, they broke up, only to rekindle their relationship in 2017. Both had income from royalties, Burke from her work on dance-themed television shows such as Dancing With the Stars and Dance Moms, and Lawrence from his acting roles on Boy Meets World, Gimme a Break, Dynasty, and Mrs. Doubtfire. Before their 2019 wedding, Burke and Lawrence signed a prenuptial agreement stating that, in the event of a divorce, each spouse would be entitled to the royalties for their own acting work before or during the marriage. Burke filed for divorce in the first week of January 2022, the peak season for divorce filings, and the divorce became final in September. Because of the prenuptial agreement, they did not have any disputes over the division of property. They did, however, disagree over which party should pay Lawrence’s attorney’s fees. They also disagreed over who would keep Ysabella, the French bulldog that the couple bought in 2020 to celebrate their first wedding anniversary. Instagram posts make it look as though Burke ended up keeping the dog.