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Belinda Etezad Rachman Headshot

Arnold and Maria's next step

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With the bombshell that Arnold had a baby 10 years ago with a member of their household staff there will be many advising Maria to go for the jugular. What woman wants to know her man had children with another woman while already married? This is the same issue that broke up Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall and given what Maria has said about "being unhappy for years" it would seem divorce is inevitable. So what is a scorned woman to do? When there is a lot of money at stake, and as of 2006 his tax return showed he had $800 million there will be a lot of pressure on Maria to hire a shark divorce lawyer. If she is smart she will not listen to the Greek chorus of revenge and be the smart and classy cookie we know her to be.

Everyone knows how nasty a divorce can be. Even if you haven't seen War of the Roses it is no secret that the venom and drama of a litigated divorce is only exceeded by the high financial price. With most divorce lawyers charging between $300 to $750 an hour, it is no surprise that a litigated divorce in California, where each side has their own lawyer costs, on average, $45,000 each. But when one has the value of assets as Schwarzenegger, legal fees will be in the millions. The tragic thing is that this is totally unnecessary. Arnold and Maria have been married 25 years. Everything they got while married is community property as long as the money came from either party's earnings. While it may be necessary for a forensic accountant to sort out the separate and community property assets, this does NOT require a heated court battle. Property issues resolved, with limited use of attorneys.

There is one minor child, Christopher, who is a young teenager. At that age the court will listen to the child when deciding which parent should have custody. There is nothing to fight about when the children are his age. He should be allowed to live with the parent of his choice without any court involvement at all. A therapist would be the best person to determine the child's desires and what is in Christopher's best interest. No lawyers needed to settle this custody issue.

Spousal and child support are hotly contested issues because most divorcing spouses who earn more than their spouse resent having to give them anything. What emotional people lose sight of is that each state has a guideline formula for establishing child support. It is a simple math problem where each parent's income or imputed income is part of the formula along with each parent's time share with the children. Would you pay someone $750 an hour to determine that 2+2=4? There is more than enough money to go around in Arnold and Maria's homes. Why enrich divorce attorneys when you don't have to?

Even celebrity divorce attorney Raoul Felder is getting on the peaceful divorce bandwagon. No one has been a bigger shark than Mr. Felder. To hear him talk about the Good Divorce is like hearing a Tiger Mom to tell her child to take the weekend off and go to Coachella but his newest book is advocating that couples should work together instead of going at it with knives drawn.

So what is the alternative to litigation? More and more people are coming to understand that mediation is the most rational response to divorce. If you look at the property division in the Schwarzeneger/Kennedy case as splitting a pie, doesn't it make sense for them to keep what they have instead of letting the lawyers get a big slice? Does it really make sense to start a war over a 13 year old when the parents need to be able to get along well enough to raise their 4 children? When support is calculated using a mathematical formula does it really make sense to hire an expensive lawyer to litigate the obvious? Working together is usually the best way to settle a problem. Mediation works best when there is only one lawyer, the mediator, because no one is encouraging either side to fight, which is how divorce lawyers make the most money. A mediator who is also an experienced divorce lawyer can answer all the legal questions, prepare all the forms and help the couple negotiate their agreement. The beauty of mediation in a case like Arnold and Maria's is that there is no public battle. The gory details of Arnold's 10 year old child and who the mother is, etc. etc. will never come out if they avoid court. Let's hope they listen to the voices of reason instead of those who would encourage them to fight.