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Financial Advice from Hollywood’s Go-To Divorce Lawyer

 

Getty + Kevin Peralta + Henry Leutwyler

Money is used as an expression of love, but it can also be used as a sword. Most relationships have some kind of financial element to them, even if people don’t readily admit that or speak about it. I think prenuptial agreements are a good idea, because they force some transparency in terms of what the expectations are prior to marriage. In my experience, people who enter into those kinds of difficult discussions—whether they have a prenup or not—tend to stay married longer.

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I don’t like stingy people. If I’m at a restaurant and my date doesn’t tip well, it’s a turnoff. I tip 20 percent at least. I waited tables, so I know how it feels.

The stupidest thing I ever bought was a watch for a significant other. You’re not supposed to do that, because they track time and it could lead to the end of a relationship, which ultimately it did.

My motto is, You can’t take it with you. My parents had more of a Depression mentality: Save, save, save. So their relationship with money was a little different from mine. But it informs how I raise my kids, because I don’t want them to think everything will be handed to them.

My first job was at my father’s firm as the Xerox girl. I also worked as an aerobics instructor in high school and college. I got married when I was still in law school. My husband and I separated less than a year later, just after I took the bar exam. I needed to work somewhere while I waited for my bar results, because the nonprofit I had been working at wasn’t paying the bills, so I asked if I could work at my father’s firm, and he said yes. I did my own divorce-slash-annulment.

After I got my book deal in 2013 [for It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way], I walked into Cartier on Madison Avenue and bought myself one of those nail bracelets, because I thought I nailed it. I’d never done anything like that for myself before.

Cardholder ($425) by Goyard; goyard.com.Henry Leutwyler

In Los Angeles, valet money is key. I always try to keep a “valet hundred” on me. It’s really one of the only times I ever use cash.

My spending is moderate to high, especially in certain categories, like clothing, bags, shoes. What are things I can’t believe people spend money on? Clothing, bags, shoes. Also, stylists and personal shoppers, because those are things that I enjoy doing. I’m also very surprised that people spend as much money as they do on their divorces. They’ll spend $1,200 on legal fees arguing over a $400 lamp.

A lot of marital problems are caused by lack of money. Having too much can also be problematic, but it’s not usually the cause of the downfall.


Data Points: Laura Wasser

First jobs: “Xerox girl,” aerobics instructor Charges: $850 per hour Seldom represents: Anyone with less than $10 million

Clients: Angelina Jolie, Britney Spears, Gavin Rossdale, Johnny Depp

Nickname: “The Disso Queen” (as in dissolution of marriage)


In many marriages, one person is responsible for the finances. I don’t think that’s necessarily wise. I can’t tell you how many people come in here and say, “I have no idea what we spend every month. I don’t ever deal with it.” I tell my prospective clients, “The more you guys argue, the more money I make. Save your money for yourselves and your kids’ bar mitzvahs and education.” That’s why we created Itsovereasy.com, where couples can go not only to learn about divorce but also to get divorced online.

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When women come to my office and they’re the ones who have been earning money for the family, they say, “What do you mean I have to pay him spousal support? How can that be?” Which many men have said for years and years. It’s just that because we’re now more gender-neutral in terms of breadwinners, that happens a little bit differently.

I don’t think the government should have control over what I do with my money and my assets, which is why I wouldn’t get married in a state like California, with its community-property laws. I’m not married now, and I can’t think of a reason why I’d get married again. But I’m optimistic about love, and I love a good wedding.

Money does not buy happiness, but it can provide more comfortable despair.


This article appears in the Winter ’18 issue of Esquire.Beau Grealy

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