March 10, 2016 Practice Points

Top 10 Tips for a Celebrity Divorce or Paternity Action

By Raymond J. Rafool, II

I am a Miami-based attorney who specializes in marital and family law and commercial litigation and has represented a number of high-profile and celebrity clientele, including the same-sex partner of tennis legend Martina Navratilova; Linda Hogan in her divorce against professional wrestling superstar Hulk Hogan and in his civil actions against her, Elizabeth Cena in her divorce from WWE star John Cena; NFL great Samari Rolle; and former star of Bravo's The Real Housewives of Miami Cristy Rice in her divorce from NBA star Glen Rice. Over the years, I've learned a few important things to remember when representing a celebrity in a divorce or paternity action. (Yes, this idea is copied from The Late Show with David Letterman—only not as funny. And yes, I'm keeping my day job!)

10. Create your litigation team and include, at least, the following:

A. A crisis management public relations firm or publicist. Do not try to handle the media yourself.

B. The client’s entertainment lawyer or retain an entertainment lawyer and actively work and consult with the entertainment lawyer.

C. A forensic expert(s) to value and address the celebrity’s status, royalties, residuals, trademarks, and other intellectual property and income streams.

9. Depending on whom you represent, push for or fight against any confidentiality agreements or gag orders.

8. Avoid destroying what your client spent a lifetime building; always keep in mind that the client has a career and needs a career during and after the lawsuit. If you’re representing the spouse of a celebrity, pressure is fine, but killing the golden goose may not be the best thing for your client.

7. Whatever you put in the court file will come out of the court file – the media watches court files like hawks (or vultures depending how the story comes out).

6. Do not let your client do interviews or have direct contact with the media. Statements and admissions rarely help your case, and you should only make comments to the media if such benefits your client. But, first listen, think and then respond.

5. Recognize that every reporter is your “friend” when they want an exclusive.

4. Control your clients’ Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and any other social media that your client has access at all hours of the day and night and wee hours of the morning—Charlie Sheen splatter is never good for your case or client—unless, of course, your client is Charlie Sheen.

3. Convince your client that no just might be a word in the English language

2. Avoid you or your client becoming late-night comedy and talk show fodder.

1. Avoid a WWE SmackDown in the courtroom, especially in front of the media and its cameras.

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