Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe were married in 1999 and divorced in California in 2006 after sharing seven years of marriage and two children. The couple did not have a pre-nuptial agreement. If they had been divorced in Ontario, the following represents how their case may have been decided and settled.
Children and Support
The couple worked and cared for the children throughout the marriage. Witherspoon and Phillippe alternated their filming schedules, so at all times one parent was with the children while the other was filming. They have a history of working together and in the best interest of their children. It is likely that the couple may be encouraged or ordered to share joint custody. By sharing joint custody this means that the couple would share the right to make decisions regarding the children’s religion, education and medical treatment. It is also likely that the couple may have shared physical custody of the children meaning that the children are with each of the parents not less than 40 percent of the time over a year period. If the couple do have a shared parenting situation, then it is likely that Witherspoon (the higher earner or payor) would have to pay Phillippe a “set-off” amount of child support. This means that each parent would determine their guideline amount of child support and then subtract the lower amount from the higher amount, and Witherspoon would pay the difference to Phillippe.
The couples both have respectable acting careers. However, Witherspoon hails the greater income currently making approximately $15,000,000 per movie in comparison to Phillippe’s average of around $600,000. Phillippe would be entitled to claim spousal support from Witherspoon. If Phillippe is granted spousal support, it would likely be a relatively high amount but for a short duration. Considerations in determining spousal support may include that the marriage was not very long. Phillippe is young and has every opportunity to continue to have a lucrative acting career and become self-sufficient.
Net Family Property
The couple was married more than five years, and both shared family responsibilities more or less equally throughout the marriage. Neither spouse would have an argument for an unequal distribution of the net family property. This means that each of the spouses would have to account for all* the property they acquired during the marriage. Each party would put together a financial statement. The financial statements determine each spouse’s net family property; and from these statements the amount that one spouse may owe, the other is determined. In this case Phillippe’s lesser net family property would be subtracted from Witherspoon’s greater net family property. The amount left over would be divided by two and would represent the “equalization payment” that Witherspoon would pay to Phillippe.
* There are some exceptions to what is included in the net family property, for example, certain gifts.