Unless you have been living under a rock for the last two weeks, you have probably heard of the devastating revelations about Matt Lauer—a long list of inappropriate sexual misconduct that resulted in his prompt firing from NBC. We now have reports that his wife, Annette, will soon file for divorce.
Matt and Annette have been married for nearly 20 years, and she previously filed for divorce in 2005, only to withdraw the petition. The couple have children together.
Matt Lauer has made significant sums as host of the Today show, by some estimates nearly $25 million per year on his current contract. Together, Matt and Annette have quite a marital estate. With much at stake, how would Matt’s conduct impact his divorce if they filed in Missouri?
First, it is possible that Matt and Annette have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. If so, to the extent that its terms do not favor Annette as much as she would like, she could seek to have the agreement set aside and found unconscionable under the circumstances. So, for instance, if she received less than half the marital property in the agreement, she could argue she never anticipated the conduct that ended the marriage (though she might have trouble making that argument since she had some sense of his adulterous behavior when she first filed for divorce).
Second, Annette certainly would want an unequal distribution of property. She would argue that the conduct throughout the entirety of the marriage warrants compensation through an unequal distribution where she would receive a majority of the marital assets. The conduct in this case seems far worse than the humiliation associated with Tiger Woods that precipitated his divorce. It definitely seems that in this one area Annette has her strongest argument for using Matt’s misconduct against him.
Third, Annette will seek maintenance. While the marriage itself has been of great length and she has been accustomed to a lavish lifestyle, the misconduct aspect will only add to the level of maintenance.
Fourth, Matt has impaired potentially his ability to parent his children. Teenagers plastered with the news of their father’s misdeeds will feel some sense of trauma and the need for normalcy might require some separation from Matt. Annette would certainly have a case for sole custody if the children have documented issues flowing from the betrayals by their father.
Finally, will Matt’s ability to earn in the future factor into how much Annette can get? While Matt may have significant wealth at the moment, his earning capacity after this scandal looks somewhat murky. Others have come back to earn plenty in their same profession, even after public humiliation – just look at Woody Allen or Tiger Woods. It seems likely that Matt in time will find his way back into real earnings, whether the inevitable book deal and some presence on television.
In short, it seems that while Matt through his misdeeds cost him the Today host chair, it will cost him financially in his divorce. He may need to seek redemption just to pay what a court orders.
If you have questions about marital misconduct and divorce, contact us – we can help.