How Celebrity Couples Choose Divorce Lawyers, Publicists Amid Breakups

In 2023, the hottest celebrity destination was Splitsville.

From sordid endings of decadeslong unions to breakups that were definitely not as amicable as their joint statements insisted, celebrities and the tabloids worked overtime this year to craft narratives about a slew of high-profile divorces. (If you’re Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, though, just don’t use the D-word.)

Breaking up is hard for anyone to do. But breaking up gracefully (and advantageously) while the world is watching requires shrewd strategizing — and plenty of cash. You need to not only find the right divorce attorney but make sure you look great (or at least not like a monster) amid the often messy dissolution of a marriage.

Here’s how to do it right every step of the way, according to attorneys and publicists to the stars.

Step 1: Find a lawyer

Your legal guide to singledom will most likely charge a pretty penny — many pretty pennies per hour, in fact. Use this primer to ensure the investment is worth it.

The Girlboss: Laura Wasser
Wasser, Cooperman & Mandles


"I say to clients all the time, the more you argue, the more conflict there is, the more I get paid. I drive a Porsche. I'm wearing Alaïa. I'm good. Let's work this out and get you through this."

Quote: The New Yorker; Photo: Cindy Ord/Getty



One of the best-known divorce lawyers in Hollywood, Wasser is widely believed to be the inspiration for Laura Dern’s character in the 2019 drama “Marriage Story.” Dubbed “The Disso Queen” for her skillful approach to the dissolution of unions, Wasser keeps her legal prowess separate from her private life. “Look, I have two kids with two different dads. I was married once for about five minutes,” she told People. “I’m not the best person to ask about relationship advice.”

Celebrity clients: Kevin Costner (divorcing Christine Baumgartner), Britney Spears (divorcing Kevin Federline), Angelina Jolie (divorcing Brad Pitt), Joe Manganiello (divorcing Sofía Vergara), Kim Kardashian (divorcing Ye), and Ariana Grande (divorcing Dalton Gomez).


Kevin Costner, Britney Spears, Angelina Jolie, Joe Manganiello, Kim Kardashian, Ariana Grande

Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic; David Crotty/Patrick McMullan; Stefani Reynolds / AFP; Mark Kolbe/Getty; Steve Granitz/FilmMagic; Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank



The Realist: Neal Hersh
Hersh Mannis


"Some things are worth fighting about. Some things aren't. If you're arguing about children, that's a righteous kind of fight. If you're arguing about pots and pans, that's absurd."

Quote: The Hollywood Reporter; Photo: Stephen Shugerman/Getty



Hersh, a founder of Hersh Mannis, is no stranger to high-profile divorces, but he’s said that being a lawyer to the stars isn’t all that glamorous: “The clients are celebrities. Our work is the same no matter who we’re working for.”

Celebrity clients: Sam Asghari (divorcing Britney Spears), Pamela Anderson (divorcing Kid Rock), Brad Pitt (divorcing Jennifer Aniston), and Halle Berry (divorcing Eric Benét).


Sam Asghari, Pamela Anderson, Brad Pitt, Halle Berry

Frazer Harrison/Getty; Samir Hussein/WireImage; James Devaney/GC Images; Steve Granitz/Getty



The Seen-It-All: Marilyn Chinitz
Blank Rome


"You look back and think, wow, this is like a movie! There isn't a story I haven't heard."

Quote: New York Lifestyles; Photo: Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan



Chinitz is known for going to extreme lengths for her clients — one case required her to obtain a prenup from a safe-deposit box in the World Trade Center that had melted during the 9/11 attacks. She even helped uncover the murder of a woman who died under suspicious circumstances amid a contentious divorce.

Celebrity clients: Tom Cruise (divorcing Katie Holmes), Wendy Williams (divorcing Kevin Hunter), the former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci (divorcing Deidre Ball when she was nine months pregnant; they later reconciled), and Michael Douglas (divorcing his first wife, Diandra Luker).


Tom Cruise, Wendy Williams, Anthony Scaramucci, Michael Douglas

Mark Cuthbert/UK Press; Johnny Nunez/WireImage; Mary Kouw/CBS; Jason Mendez/Getty



The On-Call: Nancy Chemtob
Chemtob Moss Forman & Beyda


"When people are going through a divorce, most problems don't happen Monday through Friday from 9 to 7 … I usually get a call every Sunday from someone who's in crisis."

Quote: The New York Times; Photo: Mark Sagliocco/Patrick McMullan



Chemtob’s Zen-like approach to life came as a necessity — her current husband insisted she learn to meditate when they started dating to help with the trauma from her own “horrific” divorce. Needless to say, she empathizes with her clients. “I always tell my clients, ‘If you need to speak with me, call me anytime,'” she told The New York Times.

Celebrity Clients: Star Jones (divorcing Al Reynolds), Bobby Flay (divorcing Stephanie March), Mary-Kate Olsen (divorcing Olivier Sarkozy), and Tory Burch (divorcing Christopher Burch).


Star Jones, Bobby Flay, Mary-Kate Olsen, Tory Burch

John Nacion/Getty; Theo Wargo/Getty; J. Lee/FilmMagic; Taylor Hill/WireImage



The Hush-Hush: Kristina Royce
Blank Rome


"You need to approach marriage with the same level of transparency, authenticity, and communication as you would in business."

Quote: The Hollywood Reporter; Photo: Amy Sussman/Getty Images for THR



Royce’s philosophy is to keep things as confidential as possible. The Blank Rome partner has estimated that 95% of her cases were settled through mediation alone.

Celebrity clients: Channing Tatum (divorcing Jenna Dewan), Elizabeth Chambers (divorcing Armie Hammer), Forest Whitaker (divorcing Keisha Whitaker), and Arnold Schwarzenegger (divorcing Maria Shriver).


Channing Tatum, Elizabeth Chambers, Forest Whitaker, Arnold Schwarzenegger

Gotham/WireImage; Tibrina Hobson/WireImage; Antoine Flament/Getty; Albert L. Ortega/Getty



Step 2: Craft your divorce statement

With a lawyer hired, it’s time to round up your public-relations and crisis-management teams to strategize on going public with the news.

Melanie Parncutt, a publicist at Otter PR, said the key is ensuring everyone’s messages are cohesive and align with the celeb’s personal and professional brand values.

“Your statement should tell a story of your commitment to transparency, respect, and a peaceful resolution, providing a glimpse into the person behind the public persona,” Parncutt told Business Insider.

She said Sophie Turner and Joe Jonas’ joint statement posted on Instagram in September accomplished most of this.

“The words that are really powerful here are ‘mutually,’ ‘amicably,’ and then also ‘respect our wishes for privacy for us and our children.’ Those are things that should always be included in a divorce statement,” Parncutt said. “It’s talking about them, togetherness, it’s presenting a united front, and it’s also emphasizing a peaceful resolution.”

Parncutt said it was also wise that the couple acknowledged the “many speculative narratives” circulating before their official announcement. “If they didn’t address this, it could be seen as if they’re hiding something,” she said.

Jacqueline Newman, a managing partner at Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein, told BI both parties’ releasing a joint statement is the ideal scenario. “If they didn’t put it out together, that’s making a major statement, and I think their PR agents would kill them,” she said.

Parncutt added that joint statements also help stop the press from taking sides or speculating about who’s at fault. “If one person decides to release a statement and the other person decides to go silent, this is just going to give the media a field day for speculation,” she said. “Utilizing a joint statement doesn’t leave any room for confusion.”


An illustration of a divorce statement

Alexander Wells for BI



But not every famous couple goes that route.

After Kevin Costner’s ex-wife Christine Baumgartner filed for divorce in May after 18 years of marriage, citing “irreconcilable differences,” Costner’s team released a separate statement.

“It is with great sadness that circumstances beyond his control have transpired which have resulted in Mr. Costner having to participate in a dissolution of marriage action,” the statement read. “We ask that his, Christine’s, and their children’s privacy be respected as they navigate this difficult time.”

The three lawyers BI spoke with speculated that this likely wasn’t the outcome Costner wanted.

“My read between those lines is he wanted to stay married to her and she decided to end it. And that’s what’s ‘beyond his control,'” said Scott Weston, a partner at Fox Rothschild who represents high-net-worth athletes, entrepreneurs, and Hollywood A-listers.

“He tried to make it work. Maybe they went to counseling, maybe he begged her to stay together, and she’s just like, ‘I’m done,'” he added.

Newman said Costner came across as “a wounded bird” who was making more of a statement to his ex than to the world.

CiCi Van Tine, an attorney at Davis Malm, said the statement’s impersonal nature stood out to her.

“Just the methodology of putting it in the third person about Kevin as opposed to it being Kevin felt problematic to me. It felt cold and problematic,” Van Tine told BI.

“It just was not a great statement,” she added. “I think everybody reading it can tell he either didn’t want the divorce or he didn’t know what was coming, or he was fine with the divorce but didn’t like how it was filed.”

Weston said that while the language in divorce statements can be interpreted in many ways, the one thing that means very little is “irreconcilable differences.” The phrase mentioned in many high-profile divorce announcements — including Britney Spears and Sam Asghari’s and Ariana Grande and Dalton Gomez’s — is a box that gets checked on a form.

“I always kind of chuckle when I see that, because it’s not the parties, it’s just the media saying they’re looking at a court form,” Weston said.

Jonas’ statement that his marriage to Turner was “irretrievably broken” wasn’t carefully crafted by a PR team either. Florida, where Jonas filed, is a no-fault divorce state: saying a marriage is “irretrievably broken” is the only reason one needs to list as grounds for divorce.

When asked where the phrasing originates, Newman said the language comes from a legislator, but more importantly, from “somebody who really has no sensitivity at all.”

Step 3: Manage your image

Crafting a divorce statement and making the news of your separation public are just the beginning. Every lawyer BI spoke with said they advised their clients to lay low before and after their divorce becomes public knowledge.

“People are going to be looking at everything that you do, say, write, put on film, or photograph,” Van Tine said. “If your marriage has only broken down last week and your spouse is a sympathetic figure, which most people are, even if you’ve grieved the loss of your marriage, don’t be out in public with new ladies right away or new men right away. If there are custody issues, don’t be constantly partying.”

Newman recommended that anyone going through a high-profile divorce consult with image managers and have confidentiality agreements in place.

“Especially if you have one person who might be in the public eye and the other person isn’t, that is scary because you have somebody who might be very vindictive and angry and maybe more apt to want to go to the press,” she said. “And if you are representing the person who is in the public eye, it’s very important to keep things out of the public eye. The other person may not feel the same way, and they know that they have that element of threat. And so that’s always a nerve-racking situation.”

Newman added that having children involved is often a major reason to keep a divorce low-profile.

“I don’t care how old your kid is, one day they’re going to read, and usually there’s enough stuff that’s printed about celebrities that’s not true,” she said. “I stress very much that you owe it to your kids to keep it quiet and to handle this with dignity, no matter how angry you might be.”

Celebs should also be cautious about posting on social media to ensure their actions won’t harm the divorce proceedings.

“Don’t go onto Facebook and talk about what an asshole you think your husband is,” Van Tine said. “Don’t do stuff that if a judge is going to look at it; it’s going to make you look bad.”

It’s also important to ensure your inner circle stays silent. Parncutt, the publicist, suggested that any friend or acquaintance who knows enough about the situation or who could have information that could damage the celeb’s reputation be contacted and advised on how to speak to the media.

“It’s human nature for close friends to speak up when they sense injustice or imbalance. However, it’s critical that they don’t share personal insights with the public,” she said. “Even well-intentioned comments can spark rumors and sensationalism. Media outlets often turn to close friends for an inside scoop, and one careless comment can trigger a storm.”

Legal and PR teams know their clients aren’t always going to listen to their advice. And celebs often can’t go off the grid completely — that’s not always advisable anyway.

If you’re a big public figure, Parncutt said, “people are going to notice if you go mute.” She added: “I think that posting some more casual photos just so people know that you’re alive and you’re well will make it known that you’re not hiding.”

Parncutt said that while it’s not always a smart strategy to ignore the elephant in the room, “it is a good strategy to make sure that the only topic of conversation isn’t the negative one in the spotlight.”

Liza Anderson, the founder of Anderson Group PR, said that when it comes to shaping a narrative about a celebrity’s divorce, it’s worth remembering a picture is worth a thousand words.

“Before, the only pictures that would make headlines would be a picture of you cheating on your spouse,” she said. “Now it’s ‘I’m the perfect parent, and here I am with the stroller having dinner or lunch.’ Let’s call the paparazzi.”

So don’t be too surprised when you see Sophie Turner out and about with her bestie Taylor Swift or Jeremy Allen White posing shirtless soon after separating from his ex. Those kinds of photos are usually planned, publicists said.


A couple getting their photo taken

Alexander Wells for BI



“If Taylor Swift doesn’t want to be seen, she will simply not be seen. There are back alleys to any place,” Emma Telesca, a senior publicist at Anderson Group PR, told Business Insider. “When there is a pap shot, they basically want it, especially if there are 50 cameras. Somebody was called for sure.”

Even if the celebrity didn’t call the paparazzi themselves, they’re still in the public eye. “They’re being watched at all times,” Parncutt said.

“Even if they’re going to grab a bagel or a coffee and they don’t have their ring on, that’s going to cause so much speculation. They have to be aware that at any moment what they’re doing could be turned into a news story.”

Read more about the year of celebrity divorce:

link