Scarlett Johansson just this week filed for divorce from her husband, Romain Dauriac. The couple have a two-year-old daughter. While Hollywood divorces may seem far from the “normal” divorce, they still often have much to teach, and Scarlett’s case is no different.
First, Scarlett issued a single statement through her press agent that she “will never be commenting” on her divorce for the sake of her daughter. “As a devoted mother and private person and with complete awareness that my daughter will one day be old enough to read the news about herself, I would only like to say that I will never, ever be commenting on the dissolution of my marriage,” she said in the statement.
While it may seem that Scarlett may be posturing for favorable press coverage or to one-up her husband (and that is possible), she may also be sincere. Either way, if she maintains that position she will be doing herself and her child a great service because she is right about media statements – they never go away with the Internet. So the lesson for everyday people going through divorce: follow Scarlett’s lead and do not take to social media and trash talk about your divorce or your ex, because not only could it come back to haunt you in court, it could someday be found on the Internet by your children and impact their relationship with you as a parent.
Second, Scarlett is going to have a custody battle on her hands because she is seeking primary custody, while her husband wants to relocate with the child to France. As a result, this divorce takes on some of the flavor of an international child custody case.
Scarlett has already been attacked for this position by her husband’s lawyer, who claims that Scarlett, as an actress with a busy schedule, lacks the ability to raise the child unless she intends for nannies to do the work for her. In Missouri, this tactic would not work, as it presumes that a working parent lacks the time to act as a parent. We do not base custody on stereotypes, and Scarlett’s husband has made a not-so-subtle gender-based attack. Nothing would prevent the parties from having a schedule that would allow Scarlett as the residential parent but still providing Romain ample periods of custody. It would seem that this legal approach will not fare much better in California, where courts are used to seeing couples who travel a great deal with work.
What about the relocation to France? The court would likely take a skeptical view of such a move. The child has been raised in California. Allowing relocation to France would make it nearly impossible for Scarlett to have regular contact with her daughter, and risks trying to establish French law as governing custody in the future. Using the best interests standard, a court would have a difficult time justifying depriving Scarlett of all that time absent a compelling reason related to her inability to parent.
Given the disparity in earning power between Scarlett and Romain, it is possible that some of these custody positions may be nothing more than bargaining positions for a heftier financial settlement. It would seem unusual for this case to actually go to trial; the parties would want to keep their private lives out of the public court system.
Scarlett has taken a skilled stance as a parent looking to protect her child and appear reasonable – something from which all parties to divorce could learn.
If you have questions about custody, divorce and relocation, contact us – we can help.