Hire a private judge, don’t talk “smack” about your ex and try to come to a reasonable resolution, fast.
So says one of Hollywood’s top divorce attorneys who’s known for helping famous people end their marriages with “as little aggravation and unnecessary expense as possible.”
Laura Wasser’s list of current and former clients reads like a who’s who of Hollywood. Angelina Jolie, Kim Kardashian, Johnny Depp and Heidi Klum are among the stars who’ve hired the California lawyer.
And Laura – who charges $950 an hour (in addition to an initial $25,000 retainer) for her services – doesn’t believe that a divorce has to dissolve into a bitter, protracted, headline-grabbing, mudslinging battle.
“I always say this to clients, ‘We make more money if you’re arguing more,’” Laura, 52, tells HollywoodLife. “Sometimes, unfortunately, family law attorneys aren’t necessarily resolution oriented, because that’s where the fees dry up. So, if you see a case that’s really being played out a lot in the media you can always assume that, not only are there at least one, but often two really, really aggravated irrational parties; but that at least one set of attorneys [is] not really pushing for privacy and resolution.”
When it comes to her high profile clients, Laura knows a few tricks to “minimize” the publicity surrounding the split. Firstly, it’s no coincidence that some celebs file for divorce on a Friday afternoon or just before a public holiday, when the news cycle and fans are winding down.
Secondly, Laura believes hiring a private judge to oversee the case is a wise move. “Any time you resolve issues without the need for filing court documents, without the need for court intervention, it can remain very private,” she says. “We take a lot of our cases out of the public system and do them with mediators or retired judges to obviate the need for things to be filed publicly. Again, if you have two reasonable parties and reasonable attorneys, then generally these things can get worked out.”
But, as we see in the case of the Brangelina divorce, even hiring a private judge doesn’t guarantee that things don’t get messy. (In August, Angelina Jolie created headlines by asking the Superior Court of California to remove the private judge overseeing her case, because she alleged that he failed to disclose a prior relationship with her ex, Brad Pitt. The stars, who split in 2016, have been locked in a bitter custody battle. It’s worth noting that Laura – who did not comment on this case or any of her celebrity clients – has not represented Angelina since 2018.)
Whether or not you’re a celebrity, one way to ease the tension during a divorce is not speaking ill of your ex, especially if you have children. “If you think about the fact that your kids can read and, even if they’re below reading age, they’ll be able to read one day,” Laura says. “And all of this stuff is public record and there will be things written… It does not do them any good to have you say anything bad about your co-parent.”
“And, remember, kids also take a lot of the stuff to heart,” she adds. “If you’re talking smack about your ex, your kid thinks to him or herself, ‘Well…I’m one half him. Does she hate me too…?’ So really think about that. This is your family and your kids are not going to benefit.”
When it comes to navigating divorce you don’t have to be Angelina, Heidi Klum or Kim Kardashian to benefit from Laura’s advice. The lawyer – who launched the online divorce service, It’s Over Easy in 2018 and hosts the podcast All’s Fair – has three tips for women going through the difficult process.
“I would say, number one, be very considerate of your about-to-be ex, because, especially if you have children, you’re going to know him for a very long period of time,” says Laura who herself is raising her sons, Luke, 15, and Jack, 10, with her exes. “Even if he’s not being that way to you, maintain the high road.”
“Two, educate yourself. If you don’t have it already, put together information about your finances – what you earn, what you spend, what you owe and what you have,” she adds. “Educate yourself about the law in your state. It’s Over Easy, our online divorce site, has great information and education for people. And then I would say be nice to yourself. This is the beginning of your next chapter. You have to get through it. The only way out is through but, once you do, you have a wealth of opportunities available to you and you’re on to something better. This is not a failure.”